Are Fractions Natural Numbers, Too?

Percival MatthewsUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison
Dana ChesneyOhio State University
Nicole McNeilUniversity of Notre Dame


This study presents evidence in favor of a cognitive primitives hypothesis for processing fraction magnitudes. This account holds that humans have perceptual access to fractional magnitudes and that this may be used to support symbolic fraction knowledge. In speeded cross-format comparisons, participants picked the larger of two stimuli, which were either symbolic fractions or nonsymbolic ratios composed of pairs of dot arrays or pairs of circles. Participants demonstrated distance effects across formats, demonstrating that they could compare analog fractional magnitudes independently of the particular formats in which they were presented. These results pose a challenge to innate constraints accounts that argue that human cortical structures are ill-suited for processing fractions. These results may have important implications both for theorizing about the nature of human number sense and for optimizing instruction of fractional concepts.


Are Fractions Natural Numbers, Too? (658 KB)

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