ANS acuity and mathematics ability in preschoolers from low-income homes: contributions of inhibitory control


Address for correspondence: Mary Wagner Fuhs, Peabody Research Institute, Vanderbilt University, Peabody Wyatt Center, Room 410-O, 1930 South Drive, Nashville, TN 37212, USA; e-mail:


Recent findings by Libertus, Feigenson, and Halberda (2011) suggest that there is an association between the acuity of young children's approximate number system (ANS) and their mathematics ability before exposure to instruction in formal schooling. The present study examined the generalizability and validity of these findings in a sample of preschoolers from low-income homes. Children attending Head Start (= 103) completed measures to assess ANS acuity, mathematics ability, receptive vocabulary, and inhibitory control. Results showed only a weak association between ANS acuity and mathematics ability that was reduced to non-significance when controlling for a direct measure of receptive vocabulary. Results also revealed that inhibitory control plays an important role in the relation between ANS acuity and mathematics ability. Specifically, ANS acuity accounted for significant variance in mathematics ability over and above receptive vocabulary, but only for ANS acuity trials in which surface area conflicted with numerosity. Moreover, this association became non-significant when controlling for inhibitory control. These results suggest that early mathematical experiences prior to formal schooling may influence the strength of the association between ANS acuity and mathematics ability and that inhibitory control may drive that association in young children.