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Promoting Broad and Stable Improvements in Low-Income Children’s Numerical Knowledge Through Playing Number Board Games


  • This research was supported by Department of Education Grants R305H020060 and R305H050035. We would like to thank the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Head Start classrooms and the Carnegie Mellon Children’s School for their participation in this research. Special appreciation is also extended to Mary Wolfson and Jenna Zonneveld for their assistance with data collection and coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Geetha B. Ramani, Department of Human Development, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, or Robert S. Siegler, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Electronic mail may be sent to or


Theoretical analyses of the development of numerical representations suggest that playing linear number board games should enhance young children’s numerical knowledge. Consistent with this prediction, playing such a game for roughly 1 hr increased low-income preschoolers’ (mean age = 5.4 years) proficiency on 4 diverse numerical tasks: numerical magnitude comparison, number line estimation, counting, and numeral identification. The gains remained 9 weeks later. Classmates who played an identical game, except for the squares varying in color rather than number, did not improve on any measure. Also as predicted, home experience playing number board games correlated positively with numerical knowledge. Thus, playing number board games with children from low-income backgrounds may increase their numerical knowledge at the outset of school.