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Development of the concept of number in the mentally deficient Woodward, Patricia E.

Abstract

In this study an attempt was made to validate, in the case of mentally deficient children, Piaget's hypothesis of a necessary sequence of three stages in the development of the concept of number. The test procedures used were derived from a similar investigation of normal children by Elkind, (1960a). The subjects were 90 children between the ages of 9 and 17 with a range of mental ages from 2:3 to 10:2 on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. These included 60 resident at The Woodlands School and 30 living at home, both groups evenly divided between boys and girls. Scalogram analysis (by Green's method) of the data supported Piaget's hypothesis. The 18 questions of the test procedure were found to have the necessary sequence of a true scale and this sequence was reflected with great regularity in the subjects’ response patterns. The characteristics of the raw data suggested that Piaget's three stages were adequately represented by the scale of questions. X² test of institutionalized and non-institutionalized groups of both sexes showed no significant difference in their responses to the test procedures. From this it was inferred that neither sex nor length of institutionalization influence the development of the concept of number. A significant positive correlation between raw scores on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and correct responses to the test procedures was found. The existence of this relationship between language and level of ability to understand number was dealt with speculatively in terms of the role played by language in the development of intelligence. The chief finding of interest in this study was that Piaget's hypothesized stages appear to have validity for mentally deficient children. This suggests that Piaget's model of intellectual functioning may be useful in understanding the mentally deficient. The potential value of using a Piagetian analysis of stage of developmental process instead of a standardized I.Q. measurement for intellectual investigations with this group was discussed.

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