Numerical reasoning over text is a challenging subtask in question answering (QA) that requires both the understanding of texts and numbers. However, existing language models in these numerical reasoning QA models tend to overly rely on the pre-existing parametric knowledge at inference time, which commonly causes hallucination in interpreting numbers. Our work proposes a novel attention masked reasoning model, the NC-BERT, that learns to leverage the number-related contextual knowledge to alleviate the over-reliance on parametric knowledge and enhance the numerical reasoning capabilities of the QA model. The empirical results suggest that understanding of numbers in their context by reducing the parametric knowledge influence, and refining numerical information in the number embeddings lead to improved numerical reasoning accuracy and performance in DROP, a numerical QA dataset.
Numerical reasoning in machine reading comprehension (MRC) has shown drastic improvements over the past few years. While the previous models for numerical MRC are able to interpolate the learned numerical reasoning capabilities, it is not clear whether they can perform just as well on numbers unseen in the training dataset. Our work rigorously tests state-of-the-art models on DROP, a numerical MRC dataset, to see if they can handle passages that contain out-of-range numbers. One of the key findings is that the models fail to extrapolate to unseen numbers. Presenting numbers as digit-by-digit input to the model, we also propose the E-digit number form that alleviates the lack of extrapolation in models and reveals the need to treat numbers differently from regular words in the text. Our work provides a valuable insight into the numerical MRC models and the way to represent number forms in MRC.