Effects of visual representations on fraction arithmetic learning

AbstractTwo common visual representations of fractions are circular area models and the number line. The present study examined effects of these visual representations on acquisition of fraction knowledge. In Experiment 1, elementary school students learned aspects of fraction arithmetic with a visual representation or with standard symbolic notation alone. Results found no advantage for the inclusion of a visual representation. In Experiment 2, elementary and middle students were tested on their ability to recognize, discriminate, and construct area models of fractions and number line representations of fractions. The results show higher accuracy for area model questions than for number line representation questions. Taken together these findings suggest that for fractions less than 1, simple area models may have advantages over the number line for recognition and discrimination of fractions representations. However, the incorporation of area models into instruction on fractions arithmetic provided no benefit over instruction with symbolic notation alone.

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