Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 39–51 | Cite as

Feeling number: grounding number sense in a sense of quantity

  • David Wagner
  • Brent Davis


Drawing on results from psychology and from cultural and linguistic studies, we argue for an increased focus on developing quantity sense in school mathematics. We explore the notion of “feeling number”, a phrase that we offer in a twofold sense—resisting tendencies to feel numb-er (more numb) by developing a feeling for numbers and the quantities they represent. First, we distinguish between quantity sense and the relatively vague notion of number sense. Second, we consider the human capacity for quantity sense and place that in the context of related cultural issues, including verbal and symbolic representations of number. Third and more pragmatically, we offer teaching strategies that seem helpful in the development of quantity sense coupled with number sense. Finally, we argue that there is a moral imperative to connect number sense with such a quantity sense that allows students to feel the weight of numbers. It is important that learners develop a feeling for number, which includes a sense of what numbers are and what they can do.


Quantity sense Number sense Critical mathematics education Numerosity Number systems 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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