From whole numbers to fractions to word problems: hierarchical relations in mathematics knowledge for Chinese Grade 6 students

Chang Xu*, Sabrina Di Lonardo Burr, Hongxia Li*, Chang Liu, Jiwei Si

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

It is well established in the literature that fraction knowledge is important for learning more advanced mathematics, but the hierarchical relations among whole number arithmetic, fraction knowledge, and mathematics word problem-solving are not well understood. In the current study, Chinese Grade 6 students (N = 1160; 465 girls; Mage = 12.1 years, SD = 0.6) completed whole number arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), fraction (mapping, equivalence, comparison, and arithmetic), and mathematics word problem-solving assessments. They also completed two control measures: number writing speed and nonverbal intelligence. Structural equation modeling was used to investigate the hierarchical relations among these assessments. Among the four fraction tasks, the correlations were low to moderate, suggesting that each task may tap into a unique aspect of fraction understanding. In the model, whole number arithmetic was directly related to all four fraction tasks, but was only indirectly related to mathematics word problem-solving, through fraction arithmetic. Only fraction arithmetic, the most advanced fraction skill, directly predicted mathematics word problem-solving. These findings are consistent with the view that students need to build these associations into their mathematics hierarchy to advance their mathematical competence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105884
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume242
Early online date23 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

Keywords

  • Chinese students
  • Fraction arithmetic
  • Fraction magnitude
  • Hierarchical relations
  • Whole number arithmetic
  • Word problem-solving

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