Number Sense in Kindergarten: A Factor-Analytic Study of the Construct by ProQuest


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									School Psychology Review,
2010, Volume 39, No. 2, pp. 164 –180

                           SPECIAL TOPIC

Number Sense in Kindergarten: A Factor-Analytic Study
                  of the Construct

                                         Rachel M. Lago
                                     Park Forest Middle School

                                     James Clyde DiPerna
                                  Pennsylvania State University

            Abstract. Number sense skills provide the foundation for the acquisition of higher
            order mathematical skills and concepts. However, there is disagreement over the
            definition of number sense, the specific skills that make up the construct, and the
            psychometric properties of measures used to assess these skills. In the current
            study, 10 brief tasks hypothesized to assess facets of number sense were admin-
            istered to a sample of 218 kindergarten students. Exploratory factor analysis
            demonstrated that a two-factor model best fit the data, with the first factor
            consisting of number-related skills and the second factor consisting of rapid
            naming skills. Implications for conceptualizing the number sense construct and
            measuring number sense skills in young children are discussed.

      Mathematics proficiency is becoming                Shinn, 2004). Furthermore, according to the
increasingly important for all individuals in           National Science Board (2003), the careers
today’s society. Specifically, successful math           with the highest rate of growth will require
achievement is necessary for the technological          individuals who are proficient in math and
jobs of the 21st century and for many other             science. Therefore, students with mathemat-
daily activities (Mazzocco & Thompson,                  ics deficiencies may have limited career
2005). As a result of the growing emphasis on           opportunities.
technology in today’s workplace, employees                    In addition to the limited job opportuni-
are expected to display a higher skill level in         ties associated with mathematics deficiency,
mathematics than in the past (Clarke &                  there are also economic consequences of poor

This article is based on a doctoral thesis completed by the first author at The Pennsylvania State University.
The author acknowledges the guidance of her committee: Professors James C. DiPerna, Marley W.
Watkins, Paul L. Morgan, and Sherry E. Corneal.
Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Rachel M. Lago, Park Forest Middle School,
2180 School Drive, State College, PA 16803; E-mail:
Copyright 2010 by the National Association of School Psychologists, ISSN 0279-6015

                                                                        Number Sense in Kindergarten

mathematics achievement. Because math-ori-          basic level is defined by NAEP as “partial
ented jobs tend to yield higher salaries, differ-   mastery of knowledge and skills that are fun-
ences in mathematics achievement levels may         damental for proficient work” (Reese et al.,
contribute to the growing economic disparity        1997, p. 53). In the same assessment, 39% of
among various groups in the United States. As       fourth-graders and 32% of eighth-graders
such, there has been increased concern for          were at or above the proficient level. Profi-
individuals of lower socioeconomic status, mi-      ciency is defined by NAEP as students having
norities, and females because these groups          “demonstrated competency over challenging
generally tend to exhibit lower levels of math-     subject matter” and being “well-prepared for
ematics achievement (Arnold, Fisher, Doc-           the next level of schooling” (Reese et al.,
toroff, & Dobbs, 2002; Business–Higher Ed-          1997, p. 53). Overall, results of the NAEP
ucation Forum, 2005; National Science Foun-         show that the majority of students are failing
dation, 2003). As a result, these patterns of       to meet the national standards set for profi-
mathematics proficiency and career opportu-          ciency in mathematics. The demand for math-
nities may contribute to the gender gap in          ematical skills in the workplace, coupled with
salaries and to intergenerational cycles of pov-    current low levels of mathematics proficiency,
erty (Arnold et al., 2002). Given the impor-        suggest a need to examine how math skills
tance of mathematics proficiency in today’s          develop and which early math skills are most
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