We tested the hypothesis that encoding the numerical-spatial relations in a number board game is a key process in promoting learning from playing such games. Experiment 1 used a microgenetic design to examine the effects on learning of the type of counting procedure that children use. As predicted, having kindergartners count-on from their current number on the board while playing a 0-100 number board game facilitated their encoding of the numerical-spatial relations on the game board and improved their number line estimates, numeral identification, and count-on skill. Playing the same game using the standard count-from-1 procedure led to considerably less learning. Experiment 2 demonstrated that comparable improvement in number line estimation does not occur with practice encoding the numerals 1-100 outside of the context of a number board game. The general importance of aligning learning activities and physical materials with desired mental representations is discussed.
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