ERIC Number: ED255395
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1985-Apr
Reference Count: 0
The Effect of Task Content upon Proportional Reasoning.
Jesunathadas, Joseph; Saunders, Walter L.
A long-standing issue in cognitive psychology is the question of content effects upon problem-solving skills, that is, do students' problem-solving abilities generalize across specific subject matter domains? Although Piaget argued that formal reasoning strategies are independent of content, the well-known decalogs of Piaget can be interpreted as evidence that students' reasoning skills or problem-solving performance are influenced by the subject matter content of the problem. In addition, some researchers have suggested that one's familiarity (prior knowledge) with the subject matter domain influences one's level of problem-solving performance. Therefore, the effect of familiar and unfamiliar task content upon the proportional reasoning abilities of 76 ninth grade students was investigated. Students completed a 22-item test which included 12 word problems requiring proportional reasoning. These problems were constructed at three levels of difficulty, with each level containing two problems with "familiar naturalistic" content and two with "unfamiliar science textbook" content. Results show that students had greater success at solving problems with familiar than unfamiliar task content, especially for problems involving simple ratios (but not for problems involving difficult ratios). Therefore, it is recommended that teachers help students become familiar with content before they are required to solve problems involving proportional reasoning. (JN)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Science Education Research
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (58th, French Lick Springs, IN, April 15-18, 1985).