Core multiplication in childhood
A dedicated, non-symbolic, system yielding imprecise representations of large quantities (approximate number system, or ANS) has been shown to support arithmetic calculations of addition and subtraction. In the present study, 5–7-year-old children without formal schooling in multiplication and division were given a task requiring a scalar transformation of large approximate numerosities, presented as arrays of objects. In different conditions, the required calculation was doubling, quadrupling, or increasing by a fractional factor (2.5). In all conditions, participants were able to represent the outcome of the transformation at above-chance levels, even on the earliest training trials. Their performance could not be explained by processes of repeated addition, and it showed the critical ratio signature of the ANS. These findings provide evidence for an untrained, intuitive process of calculating multiplicative numerical relationships, providing a further foundation for formal arithmetic instruction.