Effects of perceptually rich manipulatives on preschoolers' counting performance: established knowledge counts

Child Dev. May-Jun 2013;84(3):1020-33. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12028. Epub 2012 Dec 13.


Educators often use concrete objects to help children understand mathematics concepts. However, findings on the effectiveness of concrete objects are mixed. The present study examined how two factors-perceptual richness and established knowledge of the objects-combine to influence children's counting performance. In two experiments, preschoolers (N = 133; Mage = 3;10) were randomly assigned to counting tasks that used one of four types of objects in a 2 (perceptual richness: high or low) × 2 (established knowledge: high or low) factorial design. Findings suggest that perceptually rich objects facilitate children's performance when children have low knowledge of the objects but hinder performance when children have high knowledge of the objects.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Midwestern United States
  • Perception / physiology*