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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Prof Christine Merrell

Cramman, H., Gott, S., Little, J., Merrell, C., Tymms, P. & Copping, L.T. (2020). Number Identification: A Unique Developmental Pathway in Mathematics? Research Papers in Education 35(2): 117-143.

Author(s) from Durham


We make a prima facie case for identifying a single pathway in the learning of Hindu-Arabic numerical symbols and discuss why this ability may be a critical gateway concept in developing mathematical competencies. A representative sample of English and Scottish children was assessed using a number symbol identification paradigm in the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) Baseline assessment at the beginning and end of their first school year. Through a Rasch analysis of real and simulated data, we show that: (1) there appears to be a single, unidimensional pathway in learning to identify number symbols with discrete difficulty stages, (2) on examination of differential item functioning, this pathway is invariant across gender, country, socio-economic background, first language and across the first year of schooling and (3) almost all children make progress along the pathway during the year. A number identification scale may thus be a universal ruler by which all pupils could be assessed.