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Hard lessons: why rational number arithmetic is so difficult for so many people

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-07-07, 13:37 authored by Robert S. Siegler, Hugues Lortie-ForguesHugues Lortie-Forgues
Fraction and decimal arithmetic pose large difficulties for many children and adults. This is a serious problem because proficiency with these skills is crucial for learning more advanced mathematics and science and for success in many occupations. This review identifies two main classes of difficulties that underlie poor understanding of rational number arithmetic: inherent and culturally contingent. Inherent sources of difficulty are ones that are imposed by the task of learning rational number arithmetic, such as complex relations among fraction arithmetic operations. They are present for all learners. Culturally contingent sources of difficulty are ones that vary among cultures, such as teacher understanding of rational numbers. They lead to poorer learning among students in some places rather than others. We conclude by discussing interventions that can improve learning of rational number arithmetic.

Funding

The research reported here was supported in part by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grants R305A150262 and R324C100004:84.324C, Subaward 23149 to Carnegie Mellon University, in addition to the Teresa Heinz Chair at Carnegie Mellon University, the Siegler Center for Innovative Learning and Advanced Technology Center, Beijing Normal University, and an internal grant from the University of York, UK, to H. Lortie-Forgues.

History

School

  • Science

Department

  • Mathematics Education Centre

Published in

Current Directions in Psychological Science

Volume

26

Issue

4

Pages

346 - 351

Publisher

SAGE Publications

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© The Authors

Publisher statement

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721417700129. Users who receive access to an article through a repository are reminded that the article is protected by copyright and reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses. Users may also download and save a local copy of an article accessed in an institutional repository for the user's personal reference.

Publication date

2017-08-01

Copyright date

2017

ISSN

0963-7214

eISSN

1467-8721

Language

  • en

Depositor

Dr Hugues Lortie-Forgues. Deposit date: 7 July 2020

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