Handwriting, looking behaviors, and numerical development
Research on cognitive load and fine motor development suggests that children who struggle with writing automatically have less cognitive resources available for the symbolic aspects of numerical problem solving (Cameron et al., 2016). This thesis uses head-mounted eye-tracking technology to explore how children coordinate eye and hand movements as they attempt to copy single-digit numbers. Thirty-nine five- to six-year-old kindergarten children were presented nine single-digit and triple-digit stimuli to copy. Eye-tracking data was behaviorally coded for look-forward gazes and look-back gazes. A look-forward gaze refers to children looking ahead to the writing area before they had started writing whereas a look-back gaze refers to children looking back at the numerical stimulus after they had begun writing. Both gazes suggest an interruption in automaticity. Children then completed the Woodcock-Johnson IV Math Fluency and Letter Word Identification Achievement subtests. Regarding look-forward gazes, results indicated that there was a marginally statistically significant effect of gender where boys were gazing at the writing area slightly less than girls. With look-back gazes, findings indicated that children with higher math achievement scores tended to look back less frequently at the target stimulus. In contrast, children with higher reading scores tended to look back more frequently at the target stimulus. Findings suggests that kindergarten children are only starting to evidence automaticity and that letter competency does not equate to numerical competency. Therefore, children should have direct practice with number writing to enhance automaticity and school readiness.