ERIC Number: ED574835
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2018
Abstractor: As Provided
Do Children Understand Fraction Addition?
Braithwaite, David W.; Tian, Jing; Siegler, Robert S.
Many children fail to master fraction arithmetic even after years of instruction. A recent theory of fraction arithmetic (Braithwaite, Pyke, & Siegler, in press) hypothesized that this poor learning of fraction arithmetic procedures reflects poor conceptual understanding of them. To test this hypothesis, we performed three experiments examining fourth to eighth graders' estimates of fraction sums. We found that roughly half of estimates of sums were smaller than the same child's estimate of one of the two addends in the problem. Moreover, children's estimates of fraction sums were no more accurate than if they had estimated each sum as the average of the smallest and largest possible response. This weak performance could not be attributed to poor mastery of arithmetic procedures, poor knowledge of individual fraction magnitudes, or general inability to estimate sums. These results suggest that a major source of difficulty in this domain is that many children's learning of fraction arithmetic procedures develops unconstrained by conceptual understanding of the procedures. Implications for education are discussed. [At the time of submission to ERIC this article was in press with "Developmental Science." For the published version of this article, see EJ1183156.]