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Development of Academic Skills


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Single Digit Arithmetic (Siegler & Alibali, 2005)
 - using strategies to add or subtract single digits
     Example: 3 + 4 = 7
Strategies used to solve single digit arithmetic:
 - retrieve answers from memory
 - counting on fingers from number one
 - counting from the larger of the two addends (numbers)
    Example: 3 + 4 = 7  ( 4, 5, 6, 7 )
 - use previous knowledge to determine other related problems
    Example: 4 + 5 = 9 
     - child would think: 4 + 4 = 8; so: 4 + 5 must equal 9
 - decomposition of a difficult problem into two easier ones
    Example: 8 + 7 = ?
     - child thinks: "7 + 7 = 14, so if I add 1, I get 15." So they know that 7 + 8 = 15
How strategies develop
 - as children gain experience, the strategies they use change
 - there is an increase in use of retrieval
 - after years of adding and subtracting, most children can retrieve answers to most of the basic arithmetic
 - during the same time period, children begin to solve problems faster and more accurately because as they gain experience, they develop the ability to choose the quickest strategy for each arithmetic problem
Choosing a strategy
 - when faced with a problem, children must choose a retrieved answer or a back-up strategy, which are strategies used when retrieval is unsuccessful
 - young children tend to use retrieval for easier mathematic problems and use counting for harder ones
Complex Arithmetic (Siegler & Alibali, 2005)

 - It is very important that children understand concepts that underlie math procedures. If students memorize procedures without understanding they will have great problems with more complex math.



 - many children have diffucilities in fraction arithmetic

 - they tend to add the two numerators and the two denominator

       Ex: 1/2 + 1/3 = 2/5

 - this problem happens because children do not think of the amount represent by each fraction.

 - children also have problems when dealing with decimal fractions as well

 - fourth and fifth graders would say that the larger number is the one with more digits to thr right of the decimal point.

      Ex: they would say 3.258 is larger than 3.26

 - this is because children know that when dealing with whole numbers the number with more digits is bigger so they apply that rule to decimal numbers.


Research Study on Fractions

 - The researcher in the study by Rittle-Johnson and Koedinger (2005) assessed prior knowledge of grade 6 students on adding and subtracting fractions. They implemented an intervention to scaffold three kinds of knowledge, then tested achievement after the intervention.


The Intervention:

Use computer software to scaffold 3 areas of knowledge for problem solving:

Contextual – real world, story contexts

Conceptual – learned content, relative size of numbers, add facts

Procedural – subcomponents of a correct procedure, step-by-step actions



Contextual – candy bar story

Conceptual – fraction bars to model value of fraction

Procedural – provided the common denominator for each problem


The Findings

Students’ test scores for adding fractions improved after intervention

Students used conventional procedure more accurately after the intervention

Students did not need the scaffolds for the same lengths of time

Researchers learned more from error analysis than from test scores



 - a branch of mathematics in which mathematical relations are explored by using letters or symbols to represent numbers

 - children often have many difficulties learning algebra because they cannot simply generalize their knowledge of arithmetic to algebra

 - it is also difficult because in algebra children must learn to read symbolic expressions

 - because algebra involves problem solving, children have to learn the rules


Mathematics Activity for Early Learners

If you think arithmetic is easy, give this a try!

- Sarah Steeves - Morgan Barnhill - Kate Heffernan -
- Cognitive Development -
- PSYC 3310 -