Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.


Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Counting is the first formal exposure for children to learn numerals, which are constructed with a set of syntactic rules. Young children undergo many stages of rote-memorization of the sequence and eventually count through 100. What core knowledge is necessary to expand their number knowledge to higher numbers? The compositionality of numerals is a key to understanding the natural number system as in learning languages. Higher numbers (e.g., two hundred five) are constructed with the lexical items such as earlier numbers (e.g., one to nine) and multipliers. If children develop their understanding of the compositionality of numerals, they might comprehend complex numerals far beyond their count list. In a novel task, the Number Word Comparison task, we tested whether children’s skill to compare the ones (e.g., five versus eight) can extend to complex numerals (e.g., two hundred five versus two hundred eight). Sixty-eight preschoolers completed three tasks, which measured counting fluency, number word comparison skills, and their cardinal principle knowledge. Children who were capable of comparing the ones performed above chance on average in comparing complex numerals. The performance in comparing complex numerals was strongly associated with their counting fluency. Based on these empirical results, we discuss a linguistic account of number acquisition in early childhood, proposing a link between learning the syntax of numerals and understanding the meaning behind them.


First Advisor

Joonkoo Park