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1129864

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Correspondences and Numerical Differences between Disjoint SetsAuthor(s): Tom HudsonReviewed work(s):Source:
Child Development,
Vol. 54, No. 1 (Feb., 1983), pp. 84-90Published by:
on behalf of the
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Accessed: 11/11/2011 13:52
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Correspondencesand NumericalDifferencesbetweenDisjointSets
Tom Hudson
UniversityofPittsburgh
HUDSON,
TOM.
Correspondencesnd
Numerical
DifferencesbetweenDisjointSets.
CHILDDE-
VELOPMENT,
983,54,84-90.Youngchildren'sunderstandingofcorrespondencesandnu-mericaldifferencesbetweendisjointsetswas studiedina series of3experiments.Inthefirst2experiments,64children between4and 8yearsofagewereshownpairsof sets andwereaskedbothstandard("Howmanymorebirds than wormsarethere?")and nonstandard"Howmanybirdswon'tgetaworm?")numericaldifferencequestions.Thechildren'sobservedsuccessinansweringhe Won'tGetquestionsindicatesthatmanyyoungchildrenare skillfulatestab-lishingcorrespondencesnddeterminingexact numericaldifferencesbetweendisjointsets;theirpoor performanceonthe standardquestionsapparentlyreflectsamisinterpretationrinade-quatecomprehensionofcomparativeconstructionsof thegeneralform "Howmany. ..[com-parativeterm].
.
than...?"The finalexperiment,involving30additionalkindergartenchildren,dealtwith children'ssolutionstrategiesinansweringWon'tGetquestions.Themostfrequentlyobservedsolutionstrategywas asophisticatedndirectcountingstrategyratherthanaperceptuallyguidedpairing strategy.Takentogether,thepresentfindingsrestrictthedomainofapplicabilityofthetheorythatyoungchildrenare limited toperceptuallybasedforms ofmathematicalreasoning.Anumber ofyoung primary-gradechil-drenperformpoorlywhenrespondingto nu-mericaldifferencequestionsofthe form "Howmanymore----than . . .are there?"(seeGibb1956;Riley,Greeno,&Heller1982).Insteadofstatingthecorrectnumerical differ-ence,theunsuccessful children oftenrespondbysimplystatingthesizeofthelargerset.Onepotentialexplanationofthechildren'spoorperformanceisthat,consistent with Pia-get(1965),the childrenmaybeunable toestablishsuitableone-to-onecorrespondencesbetweenthegivensets.Analternativeexpla-nationisthat,althoughthe children can estab-lishcorrespondencesanddeterminenumericaldifferencesbetweendisjointsets,theydo notdo sobecausetheymisinterpretthe"Howmanymore-than...?"construction.Toinvestigatethese alternativeexplana-tions,thefirst ofthreeexperimentsweunder-tookemployedtwodifferentquestionformatsconcerningnumericaldifferences betweendis-jointsets.Thefirstformat-"Howmanymore-than...?"-isthewordingcommonlyused inpsychometricmathematicsachievementtestsandinelementaryschoolmathematicstextbooks.Thesecondformat-"Howmanywon'tgeta . . .?"-wasspecificallydevisedforuse inthisstudyin anattempttocircumventpotential linguisticdifficulties asso-ciatedwiththe"Howmanymorethan
. .
.?"construction.Thispaperis based onmydissertationresearchat IndianaUniversityandonsubsequentresearchconducted attheUniversityofPittsburgh.IwishtoextendspecialappreciationoR.N.Aslin,whodirectedmydissertationresearch,andtoL. B.Smith,whoprovidedaddi-tionalguidanceinthecompletionof thatresearchand thepreparationfthispaper.Thoughtfulcommentsbythereviewersof themanuscriptwereespeciallyvaluable.Additionalthanksaredue tothechildren,parents,teachers,andadministratorsfthe MonroeCountyCommunitySchools.Preparationof this article andportionsoftheresearchreportednit weresupportedbyfundsfrom theLearningResearchandDevelopmentCenter,supportedinpartbyfundsfrom theNational Instituteof Education.Theopinionsexpressedherein donotnecessarilyre-flectthepositionorpolicyofNIE,and no officialendorsementshouldbeinferred.The thirdstudy reportedn thearticlewaspreviouslyreportedatthe biennialmeetingoftheSocietyforResearchin ChildDevelopment,Boston,April1981.Schematicdiagramsofthe stimulimaybeobtainedfromTomHudson,DepartmentofMathematicalSciences,ManchesterCollege,NorthManchester,ndiana 46962.
[ChildDevelopment,1983, 54,84-90.
@
1983bytheSocietyforResearch inChildDevelopment,Inc.Allrightsreserved.0009-3920/83/5401-0010501.00]
 
TomHudson85
Experiment1
MethodSubjects.-Thesubjectswere 28 first-gradechildrenfroma ruralMidwestern ele-mentaryschool.Themeanageofthechildrenwas 7-0(range:6-6to7-8).Materials.-Twoseries ofeight30X13-cm illustrationsweredrawn. Eachdrawingshowedtwo setsofitemswhosenumericaldif-ferencewas eitherone, two,orthree.Tworandom ordersoftheeightnumberpairs--3:2, 4:3, 5:4,5:4,3:1,5:3, 4:1,and5:2-wereusedtoformthetwosequencesofsetsizesneededforthetwo seriesofdrawings.The items in the twosets within eachdrawingwerepositionedsoas not to formanobviousvisualpairingofthe elementsin thetwosets(seefig.1);thelargerof the two sets wasalwayson theleft. Thefollowingeightpairsof itemswere usedintwo differentordersforthetwoseriesofdrawings: squirrelsandnuts,kids andbikes,bugsandleaves,peopleandhats,birds andworms,butterfliesandflowers,dogsandbones,peopleand cookies.Procedure.-Eachchild was tested indi-viduallyonboth theMoreandWon't Gettasks,separatedbya short break. Halfof thechil-drenreceived theMore taskfirst;halfreceivedtheWon'tGet task first.In theMoretask,each child was testedusingoneofthe two seriesofeight drawingsdescribedabove.As eachdrawingwaspre-sented,theexperimentersaid,forexample,"Here aresomebirds andhereare someworms.Howmanymorebirdsthan wormsarethere?" Inthe Won'tGettask,eachchildwastestedusingwhichever seriesofdrawingsheor she did not receiveduringthe More task.
00**0 0
FIG.1.-Examplesofthespatialarrangementofpairsof sets inthe More and Won'tGet tasks ofexperiments1and 2(upperdrawings); examplesof thespatialarrangementofpairsofsetsin theNumericalDifferencetask ofexperiment3(lowerdrawings).Exceptforthequestionsasked,theprocedurewas identicalto thatusedin the Moretask.Thewordingof thequestionsin the Won'tGettaskwas asfollows:"Here aresome birdsandhere aresomeworms.Supposethe birdsallraceover,andeachonetriestogetaworm.Willeverybirdgetaworm?
.
. Howmanybirdswon'tgetaworm?"In eithertaskif thechildrespondednonverballybypointingto oneor moreindividualitems,theappropriate"Howmany...?"questionwasrepeated.Scoring.-Acomparisoninvolvingfivebirdsand four wormswillbeusedheretoillustratethescoring procedure.Withineachtaskachild'sresponsetoadrawingwas scoredascorrectif thechild answeredone,onemore,onewon't,fourwilland onewon't,andsoforth;asabsoluteifthe childansweredfive,fivebirds,fivebirdsand fourworms,morebirds,thebirds(signified verballyorbypoint-ing),andsoforth;andasaprocessingerrorifthechild madeanyotherresponse(suchasacountingerror).Results andDiscussionIn eachofthetwotasks,achildwas saidtorespondcorrectlyon agiventask ifsix ormoreof thechild'seight responseswerecor-rect.In theWon'tGettask,100%of the childrenresponded correctly.Thusitappearsthatallofthefirst-gradechildrenwereableto usetheirknowledgeofcorrespondencetodeter-mine exactnumerical differencesbetweendis-jointsets.Incontrast,only64%of these samechildrenrespondedcorrectlyto theMoretask,which useddrawingsof thesamesortusedinthe Won't Get task.Thecontrastinperfor-manceon thetwo taskswassignificant byasigntest,p<.001.The orderofpresentationof thetwotasksdid not affectthechildren'sperformance;theabovepercentageswere iden-ticalforthetwo orders.(Thecontrastinper-formanceon thetwotasksremainssignificant,p<.001,whenperfectperformanceisusedasthesuccesscriterion;thepercentagesofchil-drenresponding perfectlyto thetwotaskswere79% and39%,respectively.)Sincetheyoungchildrendisplayedanabilitytoestablishcorre-spondencesbetween thenonalignedsets in theWon't Gettask,their failuretodoso intheMoretaskapparentlyinvolvedlinguisticdiffi-culties.Consistent with thisview,children'serrorsin the More taskwerenotminor deviationsfrom theexact numericaldifferences,asmighthave beenpredictedifthe children'spoor per-

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