A wealth of evidence shows that children’s ability to understand numerical magnitude (quantity) is a critical building block of early math skills. Numerous studies have shown that children who are faster and more accurate at comparing which of two numbers is larger are also those that perform better on standardized measures of math achievement, such as tests of arithmetic achievement. For a review see De Smedt et. al 2013.  There is evidence showing that both the ability to compare numbers that are presented as symbols (e.g. the Arabic Numerals; 1,2,3…) and non-symbolically (e.g. clouds of dots or collections of objects) is related to individual differences in children’s present and future math skills. For example:

It should be noted, however, that there is more consistent evidence for an association between symbolic numerical magnitude comparison performance and arithmetic skills than there is for a relationship between non-symbolic processing abilities and calculation abilities.

Most of the current evidence showing the importance of early numerical magnitude processing skills has come from tests that are run on a computer. The motivation behind designing the numeracy screener was to build a simple paper-and-pencil tool that could be administered efficiently and with ease without requiring technology. This may be particularly useful in the context of testing in low-income countries where computers may not be widely available in classrooms. Furthermore, the aim was to design a test that would be easy to score. Computerized measures require the extraction of data such as reaction time and accuracy, while the numeracy screener simply requires the person administering the test to count up the total number of test items correctly answered.

​The design, implementation and evaluation of the numeracy screener was the focus of Nadia Nosworthy’s PhD project under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Ansari in the Numerical Cognition Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Western University. Nadia has since defended her PhD thesis, which can be found here.

As part of her PhD, Nadia Nosworthy investigated how children perform on the numeracy screener and whether their performance both correlates with concurrent arithmetic skills and predicts future math abilities. She was able to show evidence for both these relationships in her thesis, demonstrating that the numeracy screener explains significant variability in individual differences in the arithmetic skills of children from senior kindergarten to grade 3. The data showing a correlation between the numeracy screener and arithmetic skills in grades 1-3 was published in the peer-reviewed, open access, journal PLOS ONE and can be found here. Below is a figure from this article summarizing the positive correlation between Numeracy Screener (y-axis) and arithmetic skills.

What Is It?

The numeracy screener is a test of children’s ability to judge which of two number is larger. Numbers are presented symbolically (i.e. Arabic numerals) and non-symbolically (i.e. Dot arrays). Children are given a time limit (variable depending on age) to complete as many items as they can.

It is important to note that the numeracy screener is not a diagnostic tool. It cannot be used to tell whether a child has a specific learning difficulty in the domain of numeracy and mathematics, such as Developmental Dyscalculia. It is meant as a screener for potential strengths and weaknesses among students. The Numeracy Screener is merely one of many tests that can inform teachers, parents and educational psychologists about the numerical processing abilities of a child. Put differently, a low score on the numeracy screener may serve to alert a parent, teacher, psychologist to carry out additional testing. Furthermore, we strongly recommend administering the test twice with a 1-2 week gap in-between tests. This will give a better indicator of the reliability of a child's score on the screener. If you decide to administer the test twice to the same child then the Form (Form A or B) should be varied. For example, a child that was given Form A first should be tested with Form B the second time and vice-a-versa.

Thus far data has been collected from 658 children (282 in senior kindergarten, 187 in 1st grade, 103 in second grade and 86 in third grade). These data were primarily collected by Nadia Nosworthy as part of her PhD thesis, but additional data were contributed by members of the Math for Young Children (M4YC) project.

We have now put all this data together and we have created norms, so that performance of an individual child can be compared to the performance of a larger number of children in the same grade (reference data). If you would like to know how these norms were calculated, please click here. These norms can be accessed through this website. In other words, if you want to administer the test you can compare the performance of the child(ren) that you might test to the data we already have for children in SK-Grade 3.

In that way you can see how the performance of children that you might test compares to the large data we have already collected. It is critical to note that the norms that are available through this website come from children who are in the Canadian educational system. Specifically the data were collected in southern Ontario. Therefore, if you are entering scores from children who are in a different educational system/country you need to take into account that you are comparing their performance to children who are in a different school system/country. In the future we hope to add additional norms from other parts of Canada and also from other countries. We encourage researchers who are using this tool to share their data with us so that we can publish additional norms and examine to what extent cross-national differences in performance exist. For a list of current users of the Numeracy Screener, please click here. If you would like to contribute to the Canadian norms or send us data to create norms for another country please contact Daniel Ansari by e-mail at .