Cognition and Instruction vol:32 issue:4 pages:353-373
External number representations are commonly used throughout the first years of instruction. The twenty-frame is a grid that contains two rows of 10 dots each, and within each row, dots are organized in two groups of five. The assumption is that children can make use of these structures for enumerating the dots, rather than relying on one-by-one counting. We compared first-grade children's performance on two types of computerized enumeration tasks, in which between one and 20 dots were presented in random arrangements or on a twenty-frame. The number of dots was a strong predictor of response times and accuracy rates in the enumeration task with random arrangements but not in the twenty-frame task. Performance on the twenty-frame task was correlated with performance on a number and arithmetic test, even when other cognitive variables were statistically controlled. We discuss these findings in the light of theories on utilizing external representations to support numerical learning.