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Title: Methodological aspects to be considered when measuring the approximate number system (ANS) – a research review.
Authors: Dietrich, J. F.
Huber, S.
Nuerk, H.-C.
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: According to a dominant view, the approximate number system (ANS) is the foundation of symbolic math abilities. Due to the importance of math abilities for education and career, a lot of research focuses on the investigation of the ANS and its relationship with math performance. However, the results are inconsistent. This might be caused by studies differing greatly regarding the operationalization of the ANS (i.e., tasks, dependent variables). Moreover, many methodological aspects vary from one study to the next. In the present review, we discuss commonly used ANS tasks and dependent variables regarding their theoretical foundation and psychometric features. We argue that the inconsistent findings concerning the relationship between ANS acuity and math performance may be partially explained by differences in reliability. Furthermore, this review summarizes methodological aspects of ANS tasks having important impacts on the results, including stimulus range, visual controls, presentation duration of the stimuli and feedback. Based on this review, we give methodological recommendations on how to assess the ANS most reliably and most validly. All important methodological aspects to be considered when designing an ANS task or comparing results of different studies are summarized in two practical checklists.
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