Exploring differences of the compatibility effect in first graders with different mathematics learning abilities
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The ability to understand and process numerical magnitudes is a key component underlying the development of number knowledge and mathematical skills. Number comparison tasks are often used to evaluate children’s knowledge of numerical magnitudes. Recently, a number of studies have revealed that students with mathematics learning disabilities (MLD) performed less well on number comparison tasks compared to their typically developing peers, which indicates that students with MLD are most likely having difficulties in numerical magnitude processing. Although the compatibility effect has been reliably observed in two-digit Arabic number comparison tasks with both typically developing children and adults across different experimental settings, no study has yet examined the relationship between the compatibility effect and mathematics learning abilities. The present study was designed to examine the differences of the compatibility effect among first-graders with different levels of percentile rankings based on their performances on the Texas Early Mathematics Inventories-Outcome: Mathematics Problem Solving (TEMI-O: MPS) subtest and the relationship between students’ understanding of numerical magnitudes and their performances on the TEMI-O: MPS subtest. The results showed that the compatibility effect was observed with first graders. Students with different mathematics learning abilities demonstrated significant differences in the compatibility effect. Scheffé post hoc comparisons showed that a significant difference between Low-10 group and Average-25-35 group, and High-36 group. Magnitude Comparison (MC) and TEMI-O: MPS subtests were statistically significantly correlated. Finally, regression analysis showed that the incompatible items statistically significantly contributed more unique variance to the TEMI-O: MPS scores than the compatible items. Aligned with previous studies, the present study suggested that numerical magnitude processing skills were positively associated with mathematics learning abilities for first graders. Students with MLD may have substantial difficulties with incompatible comparison pairs. Therefore, differentiating compatible and incompatible pairs could enhance mathematics interventions and instruction for students with MLD.