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Summary of Misconceptions about Decimal Numbers
Misconceptions can be diagnosed by listening and watching carefully when a child answers strategically designed tasks. One of the simplest and best tasks for this topic is to select the larger from pairs of decimals. Because this is such a good task, the misconceptions have been organized in three groups according to how the child orders decimals. Other tasks useful for revealing students' thinking are presented in teaching.

Longer-is-larger misconceptions These students generally think a longer decimal is a larger number than a shorter decimal Shorter-is-larger misconceptions These students generally think a shorter decimal is a larger number than a longer decimal. Apparent-expert behavior These students can generally decide which of two decimals is larger but sometimes not for the right reasons.
• • • • • • • • • • •

Whole number thinking Column overflow thinking Zero makes small thinking Reverse thinking Denominator focussed thinking Reciprocal thinking Negative thinking Equalizing length with zeros Left to right comparison Money thinking Special difficulties with

zero

Consistency of students' thinking Do these misconceptions persist? Do they matter?

Longer-is-larger misconceptions
These students generally pick longer decimals to be larger numbers. There are a variety of reasons why they do this. Some children have not adequately made the decimalfraction link and others have place value difficulties. The most common reasons for longer-is-larger behavior are outlined below. Longer-is-larger misconceptions are most common in primary school, with about 40% of Grade 5 students interpreting decimals this way, diminishing to about 5% by Year 10 (see research data).

Whole Number Thinking

Whole number thinkers are likely to expect that the number after 4.9 (4 wholes and 9 parts) is 4.10 (4 wholes and 10 parts). Click here to see how such a child is likely to count. They are also likely to have difficulty coordinating the number of parts and the size of the parts in a fraction, because they do not understand the decimal-fraction link. If the predominant discussion in the classroom is with decimals of equal length, the misconception is not challenged, and may continue to secondary school. There are some variations in the way whole number thinkers order decimals. Sometimes these students select just on length alone, e.g. they will pick 0.021 to be larger than 0.21 just because it is longer. Other students look more carefully at the decimal part as a whole number, so that they will think that 0.21 and 0.0021 are equal, because the two whole numbers 21 and 0021 are equal. Click here to see a case study of 'Caitlin', who is a whole number thinker like this.

Column overflow thinking
Some students will usually choose longer decimals as larger, but will make correct choices when the initial decimal digits are zero. For example, these children will say 0.43 is greater than 0.5 but will know that 0.043 is smaller than 0.5. One group of these students, called column overflow thinkers, have made the decimal-fraction link but have trouble with fundamentals of place value. Column overflow thinkers have learnt the correct column names for decimal numbers, but attempt to write too many digits into a column. So 0.12 is 12 tenths (as there is no zero after the point) while 0.012 is 12 hundredths (as there is one zero after the point). In effect, they squeeze the number 12 into one column. This is why we call it column overflow. Column overflow thinkers interpret 0.35 as 35 tenths, 0.149 as 149 tenths and 0.678912 as 678912 tenths, 0.035 as 35 hundredths, 0.0149 as 149 hundredths and 0.0043 as 43 thousandths. This thinking generally leads to choosing the longer decimals as larger except when there are zeros in the first decimal places. These difficulties are like the difficulties shown by small children learning to count who often say:" . . sixty six, sixty seven, sixty eight, sixty nine, sixty ten, sixty eleven, sixty twelve...". Similarly when children first learn to add, they may put more than one digit in each place value column: 14 + 58 ___ 612 Understanding how to rename this number from "sixty twelve" (arrived at by the addition) to seventy two depends on understanding the relationships between the place

values of the columns. Ten in the units column gives one in the tens column. Column overflow thinkers may have mastered this idea for whole numbers, but need to learn it again for the decimal positions. Column overflow thinking also arise simply by "forgetting" which column name to take when describing the decimal as a fraction. Instead of getting the name from the rightmost column (in this case the hundredths, as 0.35 is 35 hundredths) the student may just take the name from the leftmost column (the tenths). Click here to see a case study of 'Brad', a column overflow thinker.

Zero Makes Small Thinking
Some children who order decimals in the same way as column overflow thinkers (above) actually seem to know little at all about place value. These zero-makes-small thinkers may have very little idea of the decimal as representing a fractional part. They respond to many of questions as do whole number thinkers. They know, however, just one thing more than do whole number thinkers - that a decimal starting with zero in the tenths column is smaller than one which does not. For example, they will know that 0.21 is larger than 0.0021 or 0.012345. Unlike whole number thinkers, they therefore can choose that 0.0762 is smaller than 0.53 correctly. A child with this misconception will order decimals in the same way as a column overflow thinker, but talking to them will reveal the differences.

Reverse Thinking
Some children do not know that the place value of the columns decreases when we move to the right. They know there is a similarity between the patterns of column names on the right and the left, but may assume they are the same. Occasionally this results in a child thinking that the names for the place value columns are the same on both sides of the decimal point: ...., hundreds, tens, ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, .... Therefore 0.428 may mean 4 tens + 2 hundreds + 8 thousands, or possibly 4 ones + 2 tens + 8 hundreds if another ones column has been inserted after the decimal point "for symmetry". These students might select 0.35 as larger than 0.41 because 53 is larger than 14 or because 530 is larger than 140. Click here to see a case study of a reverse thinker, 'Tuyet' . There seem to be two causes for this thinking pattern. A few children, especially younger children, may have very little idea of fractions and have not begun to appreciate numbers less than one. More likely, hearing difficulties or language background is the cause. Often a child with this misconception has not heard the "th" sound in the column names; so rather than tenths, hundredths and thousandths, they believe that there are

1. Anita explained: "I felt more comfortable selecting the number with the least digits as I though the longer the number.9. 1.20 to be larger than 0. 1.9m.01. With the pair 2. was asked to indicate how long 0. 0.5. p3) Negative thinking When Voula. 0.149 and 0.01." The population of the USA is in fact slightly less than 5% of the world's population. working in New Zealand.5.43 This confusion is obviously more likely to occur after students have worked with negative numbers at school (Year 7/8 on). 1. 0.9 . 1. but it also occurs in younger children. explained why she had chosen 0. 0. June 28 1997. 0.1. not one-fifth at all. a Grade 6 girl whose understanding of decimals otherwise appeared very sound placed the numbers 0. 0. she paused for a long time before stretching out her arm and pointing to the left saying: "It is a long way."We are now slightly less than one-fifth of the world's population. but in the other direction". Therefore -20 was larger than -35". a tertiary student. 1.35 "I was thinking along a number line and considering decimal numbers to be equivalent to negative numbers. 0. 1.516 and 2. the further it was down the number line in the negative direction. 2. Elizabeth. When they were asked to put numbers on a number line: some students placed all decimals below zero e. a Year 9 student.8325. Has someone important has confused 5% and 1/5? (Source: Guardian Weekly.43. but we have slightly more than 20% of the world's wealth and income. 0.65 on a number line in the positions of -0.9 of a metre was.4. also described children who were confused about negatives and decimals. 0.g. 0." Irwin (1996) .149 and -0.5. 1. 2 whereas others only put the "zero point " decimals below zero e.65. with 9 metres in some sort of negative/opposite direction. Anita.5. This is not a matter requiring Einstein to calculate.g.4. .10. Voula was confusing the length 0.

except in the case of zeros). we have seen many well-taught children who correctly follow this rule but talking to them reveals a wide range of misconceptions. but in reality very little understanding. In our research.see below) but discussion with them shows that the rules are not supported by understanding. such as Japan. The Hidden Numbers computer game enables a teacher to see whether children are using this strategy. Left to right comparison This correct strategy is to compare columns from left to right. Our Australian research data shows that about a quarter of Grade 5 students are experts but this rises to only about two thirds of Year 10 students. An example: to compare 23. add zeros to the shorter until they have the same lengths and then compare as whole numbers.873 with 23. until a digit in one decimal is larger than the corresponding digit in the other (and the first will then be larger than the second). Some will forget the rule fairly quickly if it is not taught with understanding. with a good understanding of decimal notation. This strategy always works for comparing decimals. Money thinking . Others (such as the money thinkers and students who have special difficulties with zero) may have good pragmatic skills. Of course.400) and then compare 400 with 457. to compare 0.Students in this category can generally decide which of two decimals is larger.457.4 and 0. For example. add zeros to 0. (by equalizing with zeros or comparing from left to right . but do not understand it.86 Tens Ones Tenths Hundredths Thousandths 2 3 8 7 3 2 3 8 6 same same same top is larger so stop Like the other correct strategies. Other students follow one of the two correct rules. although it is used infrequently in other countries.4 to get three decimal places (0. A variety of tasks are needed to decide how much understanding they possess. They know the rule. OR until one decimal stops (which will then be the shorter one. many of these students are true experts. Equalizing length with zeros Equalizing length with zeros is probably the most common strategy taught in Australian schools. To find out which of two decimals is the larger. this strategy can be taught as a rule to follow without understanding.

” 0 – 8 is treated as 8 – 0. take the number 8: . exemplified by a student who wrote “8 ” as the answer. 1978. Williams & Ryan. Misconception #1: Students (age 7) have a “smaller-from-larger” error (miscon¬ception) that subtraction entails subtracting the smaller digit in each column from the larger digit regardless of which is on top. For example. 143 -28 83 -37 125 54 Misconception #2: When subtracting from 0 (when the minuend includes a zero).Flipping the two numbers in the column with the 0.thinking cannot be classified (Seeresearch data. 2003. wherein nothing was borrowed from this column.” this means not reducing the 3 to 2. In problem “307-182. 2000) Correct understanding of subtraction includes the notion that the columnar order (top to bottom) of the problem cannot be reversed or flipped.apa.) http://www. there are two subtypes of misconceptions: 307 -182 856 -699 606 -568 308 -287 835 -217 285 157 168 181 618 Misconception a . Misconception: At the PreK level.Students have a misconception that multiplication always increas¬es a number. Students think nickels are more valuable than dimes because nickels are bigger. Siegler.) In problem “307-182. children hold a core misconception about money and the value of coins. Misconception . Misconception b . Subtraction (Brown & Burton. Multiplication Correct understanding of multiplication includes the knowledge that multiplication does not always increase a num¬ber.org/education/k12/alternative-conceptions. or not decrementing the number to the left of the 0 (due to first bug above.aspx MATHEMATICS Money A correct understanding of money embodies the value of coin currency as non-corre¬lated with its size.Lack of decrementing.

They incorrectly choose the expression “1/4 X 4 ” as the answer (See Fischbein. 0. 2002). 10. Five friends bought 15 lbs. which is a positive number. as it would be impossible to share less among more. 1. Division Misconception comes in the form of “division as sharing” (Nunes & Bryant. The divisor must be less than the dividend. The primitive partitive model places three constraints on the operation of division: 1. with a preceding minus sign. 3. such as ½ x 8 = 4.” Teachers were unable to provide contexts for the following problem (Goulding. Rowland. How much chocolate did each person get?” A common incorrect response to this problem is 4 x ¼ or 4 divided by 4 (instead of the correct ¼ divided by 4). How many pounds of cookies did each person get?). partitive” model interferes with children’s ability to divide fractions – because students believe you cannot divide a small number by a larger number. or the “primitive. “Four kilograms of cheese were packed in packages of ¼ kilogram each. and the minus sign is at¬tached afterwards) and later the sequence gets -4 inserted thus: -7. Indeed. 2. 2000) The correct conception of negative numbers is that these are numbers less than zero.(because the ordering is 20 then 30..3 x 8 = 24 5 x 8 = 40 This impedes students’ learning of the multiplication of a (positive) number by a fraction less than one. 7 and the minus sign is afterwards attached). Similarly. children have difficulty with the following two problems because they vio¬late the “dividend is always greater than the divisor constraint” (Tirosh. Similarly. -30... 2002): 1. 20. of cookies and shared them equally. 2002): 2 divided by ¼ Negative Numbers (See Williams & Ryan... and 3. we can explain: -4 + 7 = -11 Fractions . even teacher trainees can have this preconception of division “as shar¬ing. In this model. an object or collection of objects is divided into a number of equal parts or sub collections (e. Deri..(be¬cause the sequence is read 1. In number lines. The divisor (the number by which a dividend is divided) must be a whole number. 1996). Nello. & Marino. “Four friends bought ¼ kilogram of chocolate and shared it equally. partitive model of division” (Tirosh. This “primitive. 2. the scale may be marked: -20. 1985). “A five-meter-long stick was divided into 15 equal sticks. 2000). & Barber. -4. Hence.g. (instead of the correct 5 divided by 15). The quotient (the result of the division problem) must be less than the dividend. 4. They are usually written by indicating their opposite. What is the length of each stick?” A common incorrect response to this problem is 15 divided by 5. children have difficulty with the following problem because the primitive. partitive model implies that “division always makes things smaller” (Tirosh. How many packages contained this amount of cheese?” Because of this belief they do not view division as a possible operation for solv¬ing this word problem. A Separation Misconception means treating the two parts of the number – the minus sign and the number – separately.

cited in Hartnett & Gelman.g.” “one plus two. & Hartnett.” (See Gelman. In division. some counting principles do not apply to fractions.e. Cohen.. Example ½ +1/3 = 2/5 (See Siegler.(See misconception examples above and Hartnett & Gelman. to division by higher positive powers of 10.. with one or more zeros added before the decimal to make this possible. with each posi¬tion in the row corresponding to a certain power of 10.e.8) is shifted the same number of places to the right (to 1280). A number written in the decimal system is called a decimal. is defined as the division of one cardinal number by another. to 432.e. 1998). negative powers of 10. although sometimes this term is used to refer only to a proper fraction written in this system and not to a mixed number. Decimals are added and subtracted in the same way as in¬tegers (whole numbers). instead of viewing a fraction as a new kind of number.32) is shifted to the extreme right (i. ” “one and a half. 1998) The correct conception of a fraction is of the division of one cardinal number by another. 1989. Misconceptions reflect children’s tendency to distort fractions in order to fit their counting-based number theory. the operation is the same as for integers except that the number of decimal places in the product (i. In addition. In multiplying two decimals. including “one and two. For example. A number is written as a row of digits. A decimal point in the row divides it into those powers of 10 equal to or greater than 0 and those less than 0. digits to the right of the decimal point) is equal to the sum of the decimal places in the factors (e. the process is to add the two numera¬tors to form the sum’s numerator and then add the two denominators to form its denominator. i..24 to two decimal places and the factor 6. Students have moved towards using counting words and other symbols that are numerically meaningful.8). This includes a natural number ordering rule for fractions that is based on cardinal values of the denominator (See Hartnett & Gelman. except that when these operations are written in colum¬nar form.309=(4×103)+(3x102)+(0×101)+(9×100)=4.. 1998) Misconception #2: When adding fractions. one cannot use counting based algorithms for ordering fractions – ¼ is not more than ½.3 to one decimal place have the product 45.612 to three decimal places).e. the nonverbal and verbal counting principles do not map to the tripartite symbolic representations of fractions (two cardinal numbers separated by a line).” Rather.) and the decimal point in the dividend (12. The numbering of fractions is not consistent with the counting principles. 4.32|12. 2003) Decimal/Place-Value The correct understanding of the decimal system is of a numeration system based on powers of 10. including the idea that numbers result when sets of things are counted and that addition involves putting two sets together. Children start school with an understanding of counting – that numbers are what one gets when one counts collections of things (the counting principles).g. the factor 7. i. Moreover. Misconception #1: Student increase the values of denominator maps in order to increase quantitative values.. a decimal point in the divisor (4. they use a variety of alternatives. A fraction. For example. (e.” and “three.. Positions farther to the left of the decimal point correspond to increasing positive powers of 10 and those farther to the right to increasing negative powers. as noted.309=(4×100)+(3×10−1)+(0×10−2)+(9×10−3)=4+3/10+0/100+9/1000. One cannot count things to generate a fraction. 4. ” “twelve.000+300+0+9. and 4. the decimal points in the column entries and in the answer must all be placed one under another. Example: Elementary and high school students think ¼ is larger than ½ because 4 is more than 2 and they seldom read ½ correctly as “one half. The decimal point in the quotient is then placed above .

9. because they refer to smaller parts. 2003. This has been seen in pupils (Williams & Ryan. 3. Siegler.2. 1989. one fifth A lack of connection exists in the knowledge base between different forms of numerical expressions AND difficulties with more than two decimal places. This miscon¬ception is also seen in primary teacher trainees (Goulding et al. but then resorts to “the larger number is the one with more digits to the right” rule (i. as well as in beginning pre-service teachers (Ryan & McCrae.11. when attending to size of parts (specified by the number of columns) they ignored the number of parts (specified by the digits). i.e. cited in Goulding et al. they may infer that longer decimals. 2005).43 judged larger than 2. two hundreths 2.” Misconception. For instance. i. and the role of zero as a placeholder (see Resn¬ick et al.214 is greater than 3. Fraction errors derive from children’s attempts to interpret decimals as fractions.8). e. The division proceeds the same as for integers.214. & Leonard.2 is viewed as greater. Resnick et al. 1989.. but do not have a fully developed place value structure.35 and 1.214) (Resnick et al. a student correctly chooses the number with the zero as the smallest. Misconception b: The “largest/longest decimal is the smallest (the one with the fewest digits to the right of decimal). 3. Misconception #1: Students often use a “separation strategy.. 1986.. Example: Division by 100: 300. Hence. in ordering the following three numbers (3. 2. Sackur-Grisvard. Their repre¬sentation of the place value system does not contain the critical information of column values.0 and zeros are added to the right of the decimal point in the dividend as needed. 1989). This is known as the “zero rule” because it appears to be generated by children who are aware of the place-holder function of zero. must have lower values (Resnick et al.203 2. Siegler. They treat the two parts before and after the decimal point as separate entities. 1985. Misconception #2: This relates to the ordering of decimal fractions from largest to smallest (Resnick et al. 1989.. 1. and that three-digit decimals are read as thousandths.8 (Resnick et al.09. 2000).35 X 10-2. students continue the scale with 7.62 divided by 100 Correct Answer = 3. 3.. whereas two-digit decimals are read as hundredths.. 1989.8. SackurGrisvard & Leonard. 1989).1985.7. These children are not able to coordinate information about the size of parts with in¬formation about the number of parts.897 (Mason & Ruddock. As a result. if they know that thousandths are smaller parts than hun¬dredths.” whereby they separate the whole (integer) and decimal as different entities.19 X 10 -1..given the pairs 1. 7. 432|1280. 2003) This is known as the “whole number rule” because children are using their knowledge of whole number val¬ues in comparing decimal fractions (Resnick et al. 1985). 2002. they apply their knowledge of .10. Misconception c: Students make incorrect judgments about ordering numbers that include decimal points when one number has one or more zeros immediate¬ly to the right of the decimal point or has other digits to the right of the decimal point. Here is an example of a mistaken ordering: 0. 2002). Sackur-Grisvard & Leonard.. Sackur-Grisvard & Leonard. 3. Children using this rule appear to have little knowledge of decimal numbers.e..62 Example: When given 7. 7.that in the dividend.0062 Misconception Answer = 3.. 3. Misconception a: The larger/longer number is the one with more digits to the right of the deci¬mal point. Whole number errors derive from students’ applying rules for interpreting multi-digit integers. 1989)..09. 1989)..8. & Ryan & McCrae) This is known as the “fraction” rule because children appear to be relying on ordinary fraction notation and their knowledge of the relation between size of parts and number of parts (Resnick et al. 3. 7. 1985). column names.

. 1981). In this equation.04 Misconception Answer = 912. Variable Misconception: Level 1 A letter is assigned one numerical value from the outset 2. This fact is represented by the equation S = 6P. -10 + 15 = 25 Misconception #2: Thinking that zero is the lowest number Algebra Misconception #1: Incorrect generalization or extension of correct rules Siegler (2003) provides the following example: The distributive principle indicates that a x (b + c) = (a x b) + (a x c) Some students erroneously extend this principle on the basis of superficial simi¬larities and produce: a + (b x c) = (a + b) x ( a + c) Misconception #2: Variable Misconception Correct understanding of variables means that a student knows that letters in equations represent. there are six times as many students as professors. professors c.3 X 0.zero being very small to a conclusion that the entire decimal must be small (See Resnick et al. a symbol that denotes a relationship between two quantities). Variable Misconception: Level 3 A letter is interpreted as a label for an object or as an object itself Example: At a university. Alibali.. none of the above Misconception #3: Equality Misconception Correct understanding of equivalence (the equal sign) is the “relational” view of the equal sign. MacGregor & Stacey. McNeil.72 (This is seen in the beginning instruction of pre-service teachers as well. tenths and hundredths Example: Write in decimal form: 912 + 4/100 Correct Answer = 912.. 0. This misconception can begin in the early elementary school years and then persist through the high school years. number of students (Correct) b. 1997.24 Correct Answer = 0. This means understanding that the equal sign is a symbol of equivalence (i. at once. a range of unspecified numbers/values. what does the letter S stand for? a.1989). Knuth. It is very common for middle school students to have misconceptions about core concepts in algebra. There are several levels or kinds of variable misconceptions: 1. 2000) Misconception #1: Ignoring the minus or % sign. Errors such as: 4 + . 2005.) Misconception #4: Units.072 Misconception Answer: Multiply 3 x 24 and adjust two decimal points. & Stephens. students (Misconception) d.004 Misconception 4/100 is ¼ or 100 divided by 4 gives the decimal or 1/25 is 0. Weinberg.25 Overgeneralization of Conceptions Developed for ‘Whole Numbers’ (cited in Williams & Ryan.e. Misconception #3: Multiplication of Decimals Example: 0.25 = 912. Rosnick. including concepts of a variable (Kuchemann 78.7 = -11.

a. Knuth et al.1992. Levi. they do not know how to keep both sides of the equation equal. Kieran. uncovering and tackling misconceptions. Steinberg. & Ktorza.. McNeil & Alibali. 1999. So. It is assumed that the answer (solu¬tion) is the number after the equal sign (i. which are shown below.dcsf. Sleeman.Students exhibit a variety of misconceptions about equality (Falkner. & Carpenter.gov. Question 4 above gets to the heart of pupil A's difficulties with decimals. 1981. Often. 2005). predicting. answer on the right) http://nationalstrategies. 2005. they do not add/subtract equally from both sides of the equal sign.uk/node/87495 Common misconceptions – Exploring fractions This module focuses on the work of pupil A to model the process of identifying. a next step could be A.3x = 7 b.standards..1990. 2000). Williams & Ryan. Examine pupil A's responses to his work in class. Students do not understand the concept of “equivalent equations” and basic principles of transforming equations. x + 3 – 3 = 7 – 3 (Correct) B.e. 2005. . Example: In solving x + 3 = 7. What do his responses reveal? . x + 3 + 7 = 0 C. = 7 – 3 (Misconception) D. like college students (McNeil & Alibali. The equality misconception is also evident in adults.

.The response to question 11 above reveals another major conceptual error. summarise pupil A's difficulties with fractions and decimals. What is it? What significant misconception concerning the ordering of fractions does the above demonstrate? In a few sentences. Now read the researcher's comments on pupil A.

These children may view decimals as less than zero.Reciprocal or negative reasoning Children with this misconception also think that fewer digits to the right of a decimal point always makes a decimal larger but they use “reciprocal reasoning” or “negative reasoning”. they believe that 0. Longer is larger Children with this misconception seem to treat the portion of the number to the right of the decimal point as a whole number.6402.31 > 6.Pupil A has a misconception that often goes unrecognised. that 0.1 because 352 > 1. they feel that. Here is evidence of the reverse tendency. Put the following set of decimal numbers in . since 2 < 3. for example.45 goes into hundredths while 0.7 because 'tenths are bigger than hundredths'.2 > 0.352 > 2. Thus many pupils obtain such answers as 0. they may not know how to compare 3. however. for example. They are unsure what to do when there are entries in the thousandths place or below. Firstly.uga.3 because 12 >13 or because −2 > −3. Pupil A shows in his answers that he does understand one meaning of the denominator in a fraction. He seems.math. He sees 3/8 as involving the cutting of a cake into 8 parts.07.75 > 0.64 and 3. thus thinking that 2.482. thinking.edu/~sybilla/05Fall5020/DecimalMisconceptions.45 < 0. http://www. Secondly (and this is the reason that is suggested here). and so on. Reversal Children with this misconception “correctly” order decimals but then reverse their answers. Most teachers are aware of the tendency to ignore decimal points and treat decimals as if they are whole numbers. There are two common reasons why pupils might believe this.pdf Misconceptions in Comparing Decimals The following list describes some of the misconceptions or diﬃculties children can develop about comparing decimal numbers.8. to ignore the value of the numerator when comparing fractions. Shorter is larger Children with this misconception think that fewer digits to the right of a decimal point always makes a decimal larger. These children reason that any number of tenths is greater than any number of hundredths and that any number of hundredths is greater than any number of thousandths. who has gathered data on thousands of children in Australia. so that all their answers become incorrect.6 > 3.7 only goes into tenths. Longer is larger with exceptions This misconception is the same as the previous one except in the case of intervening zeros. they would think that 6. 0. Both pupil A's responses and the researcher's analysis are available for printing from Extras. They may reason by thinking about money. For example. to say that numbers with more decimal places are smaller in value.45 is analogous or equivalent to 1/45. Experts to the hundredths Children with this diﬃculty correctly order decimals as long as there are no entries below the hundredths. say. The list is based on the work of mathematics education researcher Kaye Stacey. so that children with this misconception correctly identify that 3. Thus 0.

uaeu.41 3.401 3. Here.order from least to greatest.4 3.pdf UGRU Journal Volume 5. 1.4102 3. 3. Fall 2007 1 1 Misconceptions in Numbers Dr.ac. Then show how children with the misconceptions described above might put the numbers in order.ugru. Mathmatics Misconceptions associated with numbers are found throughout the mathematics curriculum. Both of these errors are symptomatic of a lack of understanding of place value.3 Correct order (least to greatest): Longer is larger misconception: Longer is larger with exceptions: Shorter is larger: Reciprocal or negative reasoning: Reversal: Experts to the hundredths: http://www.62 3. Misconceptions Associated with the Arithmetic Operations Of the four basic arithmetic operations addition seems to present students with the least challenges. Amar Sadi. Two of the most common errors relate to the positioning of the numbers in the vertical presentation of the addition and the process of ‘carrying’. we identify and review certain misconceptions that are most common among primary and secondary school students. .ae/UGRUJournal/UGRUJournal_files/SR5/MIN.

The first is the belief that the divisor should always be smaller than the dividend.In subtraction. the student subtracted 3 from 7 because 3 was the smaller digit.237 = 314 Clearly. Here. The extent of this problem was investigated by several researchers. Students should be made aware at an early age of the importance of order in subtraction. Smaller-from-Larger refers to the fact that students would take the smaller digit from the larger irrespective of the position of the digits as in the following example 543 . division presents students with the most challenges. the assumption is that the subtraction is commutative. Of the four arithmetic operations. Graeber and Baker (1992) put the following question to fifteen nine-year old and fifteen ten-year old children: “Five pounds of trail mix was shared equally by fifteen friends. How many pounds of trail mix did each friend get?” . Dickson & al (1984) cite Resnick (1982) summary of student’s most common errors as either Smaller-from-Larger or mistakes with borrowing. An explicit reference to the non-commutativity of subtraction will reduce the occurrence of such errors.

Such encounters are almost always in situations where a whole number has to be divided by one of its factors.Twenty-four out of the group of 30 children responded by performing the operation 15÷5 and giving 3 as the answer. ‘this kind of problem always goes like that. Multiplying by zero One of the most common mistakes involving zero is the failure by many students to realise that multiplying any number by zero yields zero. Misconceptions With Zero UGRU Journal Volume 5. Rees and Barr (1984) found that 52% of 8613 people in a public examination wrote that . for the children. The use of zero in multiplication and division is also the source of a large number of mistakes and misconceptions among students of all ages. Thus. The source of this misconception lies clearly in the students’ early encounters with division. Perhaps more worrying was the fact that 42 percent of a sample of sixtyfive trainee elementary school teacher trainees gave the answer 15÷5. 2. Perhaps the most common is the problem that students have in ‘borrowing’ from zero in the process of subtraction.’ Further research (Graber and Baker 1988) suggests that throughout KS2 and KS3 students encounter very few instances where the divisor is greater than the dividend. Fall 2007 2 There is a wide range of common errors that students make when they encounter zero in arithmetic operations. the little into the big.

students often move on to divide 8 into 32 to obtain 4. zero represents nothing. when dividing 1632 by 8. Thus the zero that should have been written between 2 and 4 is omitted. Is Zero Worth Writing? Often students are confused when trying to decide whether to write or omit zero.9 × 0 × 8 = 72 This failure stems probably from the difficulty that many students have in interpreting a multiplication by zero. Thus. a multiplication by zero just leaves the number unchanged. Thus 45. resulting in 24 instead of 204.80 is identical to 45. many students become confused and are unable to determine exactly when should zero be written and when it should be omitted. . Since 8 does not divide into 3. As a result. students are taught not to write the ‘0’ that 3 divided by 8 would yield and divide 16 by 8 instead. For many. students often make mistakes of the type: 24 8 1632 It is not difficult to see the rationale behind the result.8 Similarly. As such. They are often told that zero at the end of a decimal number has no value and therefore can be omitted without changing the number.

Decimals More students have problems with decimals than with any other number concept. • Mistakes in aligning the numbers vertically and using the addition algorithm. There seems to be a large gap between students’ understanding of natural numbers and their understanding of decimal numbers. Common misconceptions often result from a lack of feel of multiplication or division by decimals.9 + 243.36 + 1.3. Brown (1981b. Multiplication and division of decimal numbers are even more challenging to students. Fall 2007 3 3 16. 1981c) found that about half of 12 yearold students and a third of 15 year olds have difficulties understanding decimal notation. It Gets Bigger When I Multiply and Smaller When I Divide Many problems with decimal numbers stem from facts learned or perceived when working with .075 The most common (wrong) methods used by students when adding decimals include: • Adding the numbers before the decimal points and the numbers after the decimal points separately and combining them in any one of a number of ways to form a single number. Difficulties with decimal numbers range from comprehending place value after the decimal to proper use of the algorithm of addition and subtraction. Rees and Barr (1984) found that 10 yearold primary school students provided 100 different answers to the following task: UGRU Journal Volume 5. It’s ‘as if the introduction of the decimal point changes the nature of the number in a fundamental way’.

Why do many students believe that multiplication makes bigger? The reasons are multiple. The second reason for this misconception has to do with the fact that many students first encounter multiplication in the context of whole numbers. you have to multiply it and to make it smaller you have to divide it. situation in which the multiplication of two numbers indeed results in a larger number. leading to many erroneous beliefs. Many properties of natural numbers are mechanically extended to other real numbers. In the same way. First. When plants or animal reproduce we talk of multiplication. The word ‘multiple’ itself carries a sense of many or a great number. Thus for many students it seems inconceivable that 5 × 0. A third reason for this misconception is suggested by Graeber and Campbell (1993).natural numbers.4 should give 2 since 2 is smaller than 5.1 gives 100 since 100 is much bigger than 10? For many children. to make a number bigger. Prominent among these is the widespread belief that multiplication should always yield a number that is necessarily higher than those with which we started and a division should result in a smaller number. Multiplication is often explained to young students as a repeated addition. they find it hard to accept that 10 ÷ 0. many everyday language expressions imply that it is the case. This view carries many secondary effects of which the most prominent is that multiplication makes bigger. Other secondary effects include the difficulty that students have in .

However.dealing with multiplication of fractions. 4. This abstraction and lack of feel for fractions lead students to have many misconceptions about fractions. The most common of these misconceptions involve the four algebraic operations and equivalent fractions. the same research also concluded that students have little or understanding of the concept of multiplication of fractions. This is probably due to the fact that the rule of multiplication of fractions seems natural: multiply the numerators together and the denominators together. Fall 2007 4 Research shows that on the whole students cope well with multiplication of fractions. When confronted with an . Cramer and Bezuk (1991) found that even lower-ability students experience little or no difficulty in multiplying fractions. She believes that this is mainly due to the fact that “fractions do not form a normal part of a child’s environment and the operations on them are abstractly defined”. This is partly due to the fact that multiplication with whole numbers is often viewed and understood by students as a repeated addition. and dealing with multiplication with small numbers. Fractions Kerslake (1986) found that students of thirteen to fourteen years relied heavily on rote memory of previously learned techniques when working with fractions. Multiplication and Division of Fractions UGRU Journal Volume 5.

For most children. Instead of looking for equivalent fractions having the same denominator. ¾ by ½. Division of fractions is even more problematic. In view of this absence of interpretation. often students choose the “easiest way out”. often they will struggle to find the right result. often students fail to see the point or understand the logic behind the inversion of the second fraction when carrying the operation. Addition and Subtraction of Fractions Addition of fractions poses a different sort of problem to children. this kind of operation is simply meaningless. Students find it extremely difficult to concretely visualise a division of say.operation of the type 2/3 × 3/5 3 2 × 5 3 students have no meaningful interpretation. efforts to teach multiplication of fractions should focus more on real situations involving a product of two fractions and the explication of why the multiplication of the two fractions is performed the way it is. While most will have no problems comprehending the meaning of ¼ + 2/3. When faced with the addition of fractions. they simply add the numerators . In addition.

but having the same denominator. a result of the rule of multiplication of fractions. thus using the following “rule”: a b + c d = a+c b+d Hart (1981) found that 30% of 13 year olds were making this error. However. For example. one way of dealing with this would be to find fractions equivalent to the given ones. at least partially. only 3 percent of 13 year olds were to finds . if we wanted to know which is the larger of 3/5 and 4/7. Equivalent Fractions The concept of equivalent fractions is needed in many applications involving fractions. and notes that 15 year olds were almost as likely to make this error as 13 year olds. Hart (1980) found that only 66 percent of 15 year olds could recognize that 3/10 was larger than 1/5. many students of all ages experience difficulties in their attempt to find equivalent fractions.and the denominators. In an American Survey (NAEP). This misconception is.

3/8 was nearest to 3/16.which of the fractions 1/4.42?’ 5. . such as 1/2 and 2/3. 5/16. 5/32.41 and 0. These results clearly demonstrate that students either do not know how to find equivalent fractions or do not make the connection between equivalence and size. UGRU Journal Volume 5. lots. Percentages. Hart (1980) found that only 21 percent of 15 year olds were able to find such a fraction. The following table summarises the replies given by 15 year olds to the question: ‘How many fractions lie between ¼ and ½?’ Response Percentage of children Infinitely many. Fall 2007 5 5 Equivalence of fractions can also be used to find a fraction between two given fractions. etc… (correct answer) 16% One 30% A number between 1 and 20 22% Other answers 15% Omit 17% Brown (1981) confirms that students often do not know that the number line has no ‘empty spaces’ when he asked students the question: ‘How many different numbers could you write down which lie between 0. Hart also found that students often do not realise that between two fractions on the number line there are many (infinitely many) fractions.

Rees and Barr (1984) found that only half of a sample of 8600 candidates could work out their new salary if their present salary increased by a given percentage. Some are inherent to the subject. In another test. Researchers agree that most misconceptions are difficult to overcome. with a number of challenges that appear quite daunting. The APU (1980) reports that only about half of 15 year olds could work out what percentage 50 is of 250. Thirty-three different answers were given to the question. Any lesson on percentages should start by a clear understanding that a percentage is basically a special fraction or a decimal. others are the results of teaching techniques that encourage the emergence of such misconceptions. ratios and proportions present children. Here is a sample of some answers given to a simple percentage question: 20% of £65 = £ 65/20 20% of £65 = £ 65/20 × 100 20% 0f £65 = 15% The wide range of answers shows that there is widespread confusion linked to percentages. Thus it is more important for teachers to make sure that the . CONCLUSION Misconceptions abound in mathematics. and indeed most people.Percentages. They are picked throughout the educational life of a child. only 26% of twelve-year old students could work out how much a pair of jeans which normally costs £15 would cost after a 20% reduction.

(1979) Mathematics and the 10-year old.Assessment of Performance Unit (1980). Then enough work. T. Evans/Methuen Brown.M. Fall 2007 6 examples should be focused on directly contradicting the perceived misconception. Secondary Survey Report No. and Bryant. M. Arithmetic Teacher. M (1981) Place-Value and Decimals. First. “The Problem of Fractions in the Elementary School” The Arithmetic Teacher. Rinhart and Winston for the Schools Council. Edited by Nunes. Working Paper 61. Leslie. and UGRU Journal Volume 5. teachers should be aware of areas that have the potential to generate misconceptions in the minds of the children. (1980) Secondary School Students’ Understanding of Mathematics. Linda DICKSON. P. May 1991. Mathematical Development. Schools Council. & Olive John. Psychology Press (1997) Steffe. HMSO Streefland. Margaret Brown. Chelsea College. APU . and Kay M. Hart.misconceptions do not arise in the first place. 1. Baker Little into Big is the Way it Always Is. Olwen Gibson (1984) StudentsLearning Mathematics A Teacher’s guide to recent research.research monograph. an International Perspective. Department of Education and Science. 22-24. L.. Holt. REFERENCES Graeber Anna O. In Students’ Understanding of Mathematics: 11-16 . April 1992. Ward. P. Charming Fractions or Fractions being Charmed in Learning and Teaching Mathematics. University of London. K.

408-411. Arsham. Misconceptions about Multiplication and Division. Graeber. Washington: NAEP . November 1991. 1998 Resnick. England: NEFRNelson. Fractions: Students’ Strategies and Errors.(Ed) Hart. John Murray. Anna O. and Kay Baker. New Jersey: Laurence Erlhaum Graeber. In Addition and Subtraction: A Cognitive Perspective (Ed) Carpenter. July 1988.M. Arithmetic Teacher.P. Anna. K. 2. (1981) Students’ Understanding of Mathematics 11-16. et al. Kerlake. Teaching Mathematics and its Apllications Volume 17. National Assessment of Educational Performance – NAEP (1980) Mathematical Technical Report: Summary Volume. Multiplication of Fractions. (1982) Syntax and Semantics in Learning to Subtract. Patricia F. A Critical Panoramic View Of Basic Mathematical Concepts. Budapest. Windsor. O and Campbell. 1986. Fall 2007 7 7 Cramer Kathleen and Bezuk Nadine. UGRU Journal Volume 5. Hungary. T.B. Arithmetic Teacher March 1993. H. Daphne. No. L. “Curriculum Materials and Misconceptions Concerning Multiplication and Division with Decimals” Sixth Congress of Mathematics Education.

I owe a further two quantities (-2) and a further three quantities (-3) which equals five quantities (-5). So therefore.3 = -1 COMMENT: Using the "Owing and having rule". the question above does not involve multiplication.6 -5 = -11 COMMENT: Some students of mathematics still solve this type of question above as .5 Wrong solution: -6 -5 = +30 Right solution: . it is simple addition. which is equal to + 30. So therefore. because .2 . Owing is taken as a negative (-) thing.3 Right solution: -1 + 5 . However.multiply by . when I pay back four quantities (which I already have). while having is taken as a positive (+) thing. I will have four quantities (+4) left. The solution to the problem can be approached this way. I'll be owing one more quantity (-1). So. the result is -1. if we use the idea of owing money (-) and having money (+). I owe eleven quantities altogether i. Here is another one: QUESTION 2: Simplify -1 + 5 . -6 imply I owe six quantities. -5 also imply I owe five quantities.= + and 6 x 5 = 30. -11 (it is negative eleven because I still owe).6 . Here is another one: QUESTION 3: Simplify -3 x -2 x +2 Wrong solution: -3 x -2 x +2 = -12 .6 x -5.QUESTION 1: Simplify . Let us now use this idea to solve the question above and other subsequent questions involving operations on directed numbers. I owed one quantity (-) and I have five quantities (+5). when I pay back the one quantity I owe.2 .e.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.html. free mathematics worksheets.uk/resources/help/miscon4. It is necessary to simplify the signs first before the numbers (figures).html.experiencefestival.rocktech. free mathematics newsletters. Now to the figures.biz/math.plymouth. free mathematics newsletters.x -= +. You can obtain an exciting e-book that has treated over 70 common mistakes in mathematics by students at an introductory price athttp://www. the result is +12.cimt. Claim a free sample of the math ebook. . access to my mathematics blog immediately. access to my mathematics blog immediately. 3 x 2 x 2 = 12. free mathematics worksheets.rocktech. the resultant + sign multiplied by the last + sign = +.pdf -copy from intenethttp://www.ac.biz/math. You can obtain an exciting e-book that has treated over 70 common mistakes in mathematics by students at an introductory price athttp://www.com/mathematics_-_common_misconceptions -copy from intenet- .com/?expert=Sesan_Oguntade http://www.Right solution: -3 x .2 x + 2 = +12 COMMENT: This problem involves multiplication and the rule of signs must apply. Therefore. Claim a free sample of the math ebook.

3 0.7 0. 2004) indicate some students misunderstand the decimal numeration system and that some students use a rule to compare decimals possibly to the detriment of their conceptual understanding.com/doc/1G1-164525541.4 Second set 0. students who are not dependent on this rule (and successful in a decimal comparison task) are more likely to be able to solve more difficult tasks involving the relative size of decimals..9 0. 2004) indicate many students treat decimals as another whole number to the right of the decimal point.4 0.7 0. The task included nine decimal pairs.3 0. and the students were asked to say which was larger and why. in the context of comparing decimals.g.45 has more digits.45 is larger than 0.html Why might a child have no trouble ordering this first set of decimals but have difficulty with the second set? First set0. The decimal comparison task was implemented in an interview situation rather than a pencil and paper test.highbeam. 0. I interviewed 48 students from Years 3 to 6 using a range of tasks.9 0.10 Results from a large scale study of students' misconceptions of decimal notation (Steinle & Stacey. This "whole number thinking" leads some students to believe. e. This misconception (one of several major misconceptions) appears to be the most prevalent and is likely to be persistent beyond Year 10. Patterns of errors suggested some students held the misconceptions outlined by Steinle and Stacey (1998). This rule provides a quick fix to students unable to compare decimals accurately while continuing to encourage the "whole number thinking" misconception.http://www. that "longer is larger". where the mathematical focus was decimal knowledge and understanding. A research project In 2004. Also.8 because 0. and I . These results and results from a research project (Roche & Clarke. During the analyses of these interviews I was able to follow the progress of students who were successful on a decimal comparison task.

March 27. 2010 PERPULUHAN . For example: "0. Some students used fractional language and benchmarking strategies to compare the decimals.com/2010/03/perpuluhan-cara-menambah-nombor_27.567 is more than a half and 0. Yang perlu di utamakan ialah kedudukan titik perpuluhannya.was able to identify two strategies used by students who achieved no more than one error on the decimal comparison task.blogspot.3 is less than a half".Cara menambah nombor perpuluhan Untuk menambahkan nombor perpuluhan. or 0. Menambahkan Seperti biasa. or "0. caranya tetap sama seperti menambah nombor bulat.567 is greater than 0. Strategy 1.087 … http://chekguisza.html Saturday.87 is greater than 0. . Adalah PENTING untuk memastikan yang titik perpuluhan berada dalam satu garisan yang lurus sebelum penambahan nombor perpuluhan dilakukan. aktiviti penambahan di mulai dengan nombor yang paling kanan dan bergerak kepada lajur sebelah kiri.3 because five tenths is greater than three tenths.

jika menambah nombor yang membawa jawapan lebih daripada 9) . anda masih perlu menyusun titik perpuluhan dalam satu garisan lurus sebelum menambah. Jawapan di atas tangan Jika ada membawa (iaitu.Penambahan nombor perpuluhan yang tidak sama rata Jika nombor anda menambah tidak mempunyai jumlah yang sama digit ke kanan titik perpuluhan. . ingat untuk menambah digit puluhan dari medan ke medan seterusnya.

Titik perpuluhan tidak berada dalam satu garis yang lurus 2. 1.Kesalahan yang sering anak-anak lakukan ketika menambahkan nombor perpuluhan. . Menambahkan nombor yang berada di sebelah kiri terlebih dahulu.

Pembahagian bagi nombor perpuluhan.my/books? id=6DfkE5c4R3wC&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=misconception+of+decimal+in+subtr action&source=bl&ots=mCx0pwbj3A&sig=aaMreYJi5YymyU7puSKjENEsnyg&hl=en &ei=KqNrTe3DG83trQeIvPTCCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved= 0CE0Q6AEwCA#v=onepage&q&f=false http://www.pdf http://www.ied.pdf http://www.scribd.mathsolutions.scribd. Ini kerana bagi mereka. Antara kesilapan yang sering dilakukan oleh murid dalam operasi pembahagian bagi nombor perpuluhan ialah mereka mengabaikan titik perpuluhan semasa melakukan proses pembahagian nombor perpuluhan.com/doc/29780579/Misconceptions-in-Math-Diagnostic-Teaching http://books.google.http://www.org.blogspot.uk/tlp/xcurricula/lmic/assets/documents/2175_17_sessio n4_o.edu.hk/primaryed/eproceedings/fullpaper/RN375. titik perpuluhan itu boleh menyukarkan dan mengelirukan mereka untuk melakukan pembahagian nombor perpuluhan.com/doc/7786455/Misconception-in-mathematics http://mathsisinteresting.pdf http://tlp.excellencegateway.com/documents/978-1-935099-01-7_CH3.com. Contohnya: .com/2009/08/misconception-of-percentage.html Kesalahan 14: Rujuk lampiran .

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