This past summer I had the privilege of working as a research assistant in the Developing Minds Lab under the supervision of Dr. Elizabeth Brannon. Throughout my ten weeks in this lab I contributed to a variety of ongoing projects. These projects focus on understanding children’s abilities to identify numbers and words, and also investigate how children make decisions. One project in particular that I found fascinating was exploring how children order numbers, otherwise known as the Ordinality Project. This project focuses on numerical magnitude and a child’s ability to order numbers from the smallest magnitude to the largest. It contains two components: one in which the children are asked to put three numbers in order (production) and another in which the children are asked to state whether or not a series of three numbers are in the correct order (verification).
Although this study was already established, one key issue was identified during my time in the lab: the data suggested that children had a difficult time verifying that three non-consecutive numbers were in the correct order. This prompted us to consider a new methodology that could help children better understand the concept of order.
To do this I created a board game called Fantastic Mr. Frog in which the children would first pick a card with a color and a sequence of three numbers. They would then jump on a large number line created out of foam puzzle pieces to “check” if the numbers were correctly ordered. We explained to the children that if they continued to jump forward on the number line the numbers were in the correct order, but if they needed to turn around and jump backwards, the numbers were not in the correct order. We predict that a physical number line may allow children to visualize the order despite gaps between numbers.
Throughout my summer experience participating in the PURM research program I gained experience in collecting data, testing children, creating an aspect of a project, and generally learning what it is like to work in a lab. I would definitely recommend this experience for undergraduates who are interested in learning about research and pursuing an interest.