Published
March 16, 2022
| Pages: 353-361 | Views: 103

### Abstract

The conceptual development of natural number in preschoolers is well-researched. However, less is known about the conceptual development of zero. Recent studies suggested that children develop an understanding of zero after learning to count. It remains unclear, when a conceptual understanding of “zero” as number word for an empty set emerges. This paper integrates numerical and language theories about how, where and when the concept of zero forms and integrates in the class of natural number. The counting skills of N=107 preschoolers was assessed in the number range between zero and eight as well as their ordinal understanding of zero. The results show that compared to the natural numbers, zero was substantially more difficult. Further, children were more likely to locate zero within the number word sequence than to give zero items, which contradicts findings regarding natural numbers. Regarding zero, ordinal comparison and ordering were easier then addition and subtraction by counting. The results suggest that the conceptual development of zero differs qualitatively from the natural numbers. Based on the results, the ordinal understanding of zero as a predecessor of one plus its matching linguistic concepts is proposed to be the driver of the conceptual development of zero.

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Keywords

Numerical cognition, zero, ordinal representation, early numeracy, conceptual development

### Affiliations

Julia Hartmann

Institut für Psychologie, Universität Duisburg-Essen

Moritz Herzog

University of Wuppertal, Institute of Educational Research, Wuppertal, Germany

Annemarie Fritz

Academy Word + Number, International Institute for Intercultural Education, Cologne, Germany

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