NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1079407
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Nov
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0012-1649
Minding the Gap: Children's Difficulty Conceptualizing Spatial Intervals as Linear Measurement Units
Solomon, Tracy L.; Vasilyeva, Marina; Huttenlocher, Janellen; Levine, Susan C.
Developmental Psychology, v51 n11 p1564-1573 Nov 2015
Understanding measurement units is critical to mathematics and science learning, but it is a topic that American students find difficult. In 3 studies, we investigated the challenges underlying this difficulty in kindergarten and second grade by comparing performance on different versions of a linear measurement task. Children measured crayons that were either aligned or shifted relative to the left edge of either a continuous ruler or a row of discrete units. The alignment (aligned, shifted) and the measuring tool (ruler, discrete units) were crossed to form 4 types of problems. Study 1 showed good performance in both grades on both types of aligned problems as well as on the shifted problems with discrete units. In contrast, performance was at chance on the shifted ruler problems. Study 2 showed that performance on shifted discrete unit problems declined when numbers were placed on the units, particularly for kindergarteners, suggesting that on the shifted ruler problems, the presence of numbers may have contributed to children's difficulty. However, Study 3 showed that the difficulty on the shifted ruler problems persisted even when the numbers were removed from the ruler. Taken together, these findings suggest that there are multiple challenges to understanding measurement, but that a key challenge is conceptualizing the ruler as a set of countable spatial interval units.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Kindergarten; Primary Education; Early Childhood Education; Grade 2; Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF); Institute of Education Sciences (ED)
Authoring Institution: N/A
IES Funded: Yes
Grant or Contract Numbers: SBE1041707; SBE0541957; R305A120184