Document Type



Mathematics, Science & Technology Education Centre, Edith Cowan University

Place of Publication

Perth, Western Australia


Mathematics, Science and Technology Education Centre


McIntosh, A., Reys, B., Reys, R., Bana, J., Farrell, B. (1997). Number sense in school mathematics: student performance in four countries. Perth, Australia: Mathematics, Science & Technology Education Centre, Edith Cowan University.


Since 1988 teams of researchers in the United States, Japan and Australia have been involved in a collaborative research project to assess the mental computation ability of their students. The results of this research have been reported elsewhere (Mcintosh, Bana & Farrell 1995; Mcintosh, Nohda, Reys & Reys 1995). The researchers involved were Professors Robert and Barbara Reys of the University of Missouri - Columbia, Professor Nobuhiko Nohda of the University of Tsukuba and Alistair Mcintosh, Jack Bana and Brian Farrell of Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia.

The United States and Australian researchers went on to assess the number sense of the same cohorts of students in their two countries. During this time, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri -Columbia, Der Ching Yang, was conducting research into the number sense of Taiwanese students, adapting some of the test items devised by the research teams. In 1995, while Professors Robert and Barbara Reys were at the University of Goteborg on Fulbright scholarships, a team of researchers including Goran Emanuelsson and Bengt Johansson used many of the items to test the number sense of Swedish students.

This monograph, while focussing mainly on the United States and Australian data, also includes relevant Swedish and Taiwanese data, together with brief discussions kindly contributed by Goran Emanuelsson, Bengt Johansson and Der Ching Yang.

The idea of the development of number sense as a central goal of school mathematics is a recent one, and broad agreement as to its scope is only beginning to emerge. The development of written group tests of number sense is even more embryonic, and indeed not all experts agree that pencil and paper tests, let alone tests including multiple choice items, are an appropriate mode of assessing number sense.