ing. in irs fundamer.:a! form, seems intuitively linked to
ability to mentallyences of words or symbols according to fixed transcoding or(1987), following Chomsky (1980), argues that “theemerges through the interaction of central features of theother cognitive capacities relating to the recognition andoojecas and collections
. . . . It
is therefore not necessarys “acuity of number’ as a separate module of mind”(p. 3). Th,s view of what constitutes the core of numerical ability, although it islarely articulated as clearly, is widely spread. and it has been largely successful inmodelling adult human arithmetical performance.
A short history
Historicaliy, number notations have passed through several stages of
ciency (Dantzig, 1967; Guitel, 1975; Ifrah, 1981; Menninger, 1969). Thisevolution is important to consider because it has influenced
our present notational
systems. The simplest numerical notations are
(Ifrah, 1981): a number ofsimilar tokens (e.g., fingers, notches on a stick, knots on ancient
strings) are put in one-to-on.; correspondence with the denumerated set, and theresulting pattern of tokens serves as a number word. Thus, “four” is written i[II inEgyptian hieroglyphic notation. The category of concrete notations also includesthe peculiar gestural notations used in New Guinea, where numbers up to 33 aredenoted by pointing to differqnt parts of the body, or by naming the appropriate,g., the word for 23 is literally “left ankle”).tten concrete notations are tedious because above some limit consecutivenumber words cannot be rapidly discriminated. This difficulty was obviated inmany ancient cuitures by grouping the marks in a recognizable pattern (e.g.,5 =
n Egyptian hieroglyphs) or by inventing altogether new symbols (e.g.,5 = r in ancient Greek).’
later emerged as a solution to theproblem of memorizing new arbitrary symbols for each number. Special symbolsare attributed to some fundamental numbers (e.g., 10 and 100).
notation foraley number is then obtained by juxtaposing the appropriate rmmber of symbols ofeach sort (e.g., 43 is denoted “10 IO 10 10 1 1 1”). Although fundamental numbersare often powers of
10, this is by no means
necessary. For instance sou African
trihpc 11~~ k~p Z !GI~~I$ww ~r~erl
3600and 36,000, and Greeks had distinct symbols (letters) for numbers l-9, lo-90 and100-900 (Guitel, 1975; Ifrah, 1981; Menninger, 1969).
more compact notation is achieved with
‘Incidentally, such deviations
from strictly concrete notations always star: at 4 or 5 (Ifrah, 1981).strongly suggesting the cross-cultural invariance of the subitizing range (see below).