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Educationa l Psychology, Vol. 22 , No. 5, 2002

Educationa l Psychology, Vol. 22 , No. 5, 2002 Young Children’ s Understanding of Additio n

Young Children’ s Understanding of Additio n Concepts

KATHERINE H. CANOBI, ROBER T A. REEV E & PHILIPP A E. PATTISON , The University of Melbourne, Australia

ABSTRACT Children ’s knowledge of concrete versions of additiv e composition, commutativity and associativit y wa s investigated in two studies . In Stud y 1, 24 four- to ve-year-olds and 25 ve- to six-year-olds judged th e equivalence of conceptually related additio n problems presented usin g groups of objects. In Stud y 2, 45 ve- to six-year-olds judged related problems and solved additio n problems. Both studie s indicate d that concrete versions of principle s wer e salien t to mos t children although associativit y wa s more dif cult than commutativity and there wer e considerabl e individua l difference s in children ’s understanding . Stud y 1 results indicate d that schoolchildren wer e mor e accurate at recognisin g additiv e composition than preschoolers and Stud y 2 result s suggested that commutativity knowledg e was related to usin g advanced countin g strategies for solving additio n problems. Overall, th e research supports the claim that examinin g early knowledg e of additio n principle s provides important insight s int o children ’ s emerging part–whole knowledg e and mathematical development .

Introduction

Th e ai m of th e research was to explor e children ’s knowledge of concrete version s of additio n principle s in orde r bette r to understand th e emergenc e an d developmen t of part –whole knowledge. Recognising th e way s in whic h a whole is composed of differen t part s is fundamental to numbe r sense and underlies man y relationship s between additio n problems . Fo r example , part s added in differen t orders still equal th e whole, therefore a 1 b 5 b 1 a (commutativity) . Principle s such as additiv e composition , com- mutativit y an d associativit y are fundamental propertie s of additio n an d explorin g th e sequence in whic h childre n lear n abou t the m is likel y to she d ligh t on th e developmen t of part – whol e knowledge . However, despite th e prominence of such principle s in ke y theorie s of mathematica l developmen t (Gelma n & Gallistel, 1978 ; Piaget , 1952 ; Resnick, 1992) , surprisingl y littl e is known about how childre n learn about them . Fo r example , some principle s (such as associativity ) are mor e comple x than others (such as

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commutativity ) an d ma y be acquire d late r but few studies hav e addressed th e develop- mental sequence in children ’ s part – whol e knowledge. Th e lac k of research int o additio n principle s is especially problemati c give n th e evidence tha t individua l differences in children ’ s knowledge of th e principle s ar e systematicall y relate d to thei r skill in solvin g schoo l additio n problem s (Canobi, in press; Canobi, Reeve , & Pattison , 1998) . Re- search int o children ’ s knowledge of differen t principle s is needed in orde r to understand th e emergence an d developmen t of conceptual understanding in addition . Because th e additio n principle s var y in complexity , the y provid e a useful framewor k for investigatin g differen t form s of part – whol e knowledge. Additiv e compositio n is th e principl e tha t large r sets ar e mad e up of smalle r sets. Commutativit y is th e principl e tha t problem s containin g th e sam e sets in a differen t order hav e th e sam e answer, a 1 b 5 b 1 a. Associativit y is th e principl e tha t problem s in whic h sets ar e decomposed, and recombined in differen t orders , hav e th e sam e answer, (a 1 b) 1 c 5 a 1 (b 1 c). It seem s likel y tha t knowledge of additio n principle s emerge s throug h noticin g regularitie s in th e way s in which physica l objects ca n be combined. Fo r example , th e proces s of combinin g sets is commutativ e in th e sense tha t th e order in which group s of objects ar e combined is irrelevan t to th e tota l number of objects in th e combine d set. An appreciatio n of principle-base d regularitie s in interaction s wit h sets of objects is viewed as importan t to conceptual developmen t (Gelma n & Gallistel , 1978 ; Piaget , 1952 ; Resnick, 1992) . Fo r instance, Resnic k (1986 , 1992 , 1994 ) argue s tha t concep- tual development occurs as childre n ma p new form s of understanding onto an initiall y “ protoquantitative ” part –whole schema. Speci cally , childre n ma y initiall y understand commutativit y an d associativit y in term s of ho w physica l objects ca n be joine d togethe r and a crucia l development occurs whe n counting knowledge is combined wit h th e part –whole schema so tha t childre n ca n reason using equations such as 2 apple s 1 3 apples 5 3 apples 1 2 apples . Resnic k argue s that , at a late r stage , childre n begi n to reason wit h numbers independently of thei r referentia l context (2 1 3 5 3 1 2) before understanding th e principle s as abstrac t rule s (a 1 b 5 b 1 a) . Th e clai m tha t childre n rs t learn abou t additio n principle s in th e context of physica l objects (Gelma n & Gallistel, 1978 ; Resnick, 1992 ) ha s importan t theoretica l and educational implication s and further research is needed to specify change s in children ’ s understanding of concrete version s of part – whol e concepts. Because th e additio n principle s ar e likel y to be importan t to children ’s conceptual understanding, it is of interes t to explor e th e sequence or sequences in which childre n lear n abou t them . However, not al l researcher s suggest a separatio n of additio n principle s in children ’ s representations. Fo r example , Resnic k (1992 , 1994 ) claim s tha t associativit y an d commutativit y ar e not distinc t in children ’s understanding, citin g a longitudina l study of Pitt , a seven-year-old who regarde d commutativit y an d associativ - it y as self-evident permission s roote d in additiv e composition . However, althoug h Pit t ma y hav e com e to recognis e th e interdependency of th e principles , it is possibl e tha t he cam e to appreciat e th e principle s at differen t stages . Moreover, ther e is some evidence tha t commutativit y ma y be acquire d before associativit y (Canob i et al. , 1998 ; Clos e & Murtagh , 1986 ; Langford, 1981) . Fo r example , Clos e and Murtag h (1986 ) foun d tha t childre n correctl y solve d mor e writte n problem s designed to re ec t commutativit y tha n associativity , bu t this difference may hav e been associate d wit h th e computationa l rathe r tha n conceptual demands involve d in solvin g three-addend problems . Canob i et al. (1998 ) measured conceptual knowledge separatel y fro m proble m solvin g an d found tha t childre n were mor e successful at recognisin g an d explainin g th e relationshi p between commute d problem s than thos e depicting aspects of additiv e compositio n and

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associativity . However, th e ndings of both studies pertai n to symbolicall y presented problems (2 1 3 5 3 1 2) and it is unclear ho w th e results appl y to children ’s reasonin g abou t physica l objects. Langfor d (1981 ) investigate d concrete versions of th e principle s

in a longitudina l study in whic h children ’ s responses to an interviewer ’ s description s of action s on covere d boxe s of beans suggested tha t knowledge of commutativit y precedes associativity . However, in thi s study, childre n needed to remembe r th e interviewer ’s descriptions in orde r to respon d correctly an d associativit y item s involve d mor e sets (and longe r descriptions ) tha n commutativit y items . Therefore , furthe r research int o th e comparativ e dif culty of recognisin g variou s additio n principle s in th e context of physica l objects is needed. Suc h research should contro l fo r possibl e confounding factor s such as a relianc e on verba l instruction s and th e potentia l use of computatio n procedures on task s designed to measure conceptual understanding.

A further interpretiv e dif culty wit h previou s research is tha t it is unclear why

childre n nd associativit y [( a 1 b) 1 c 5 a 1 (b 1 c)] comparativel y dif cult. Fo r exam - ple , Langford’ s (1981 ) associativit y tas k was th e sam e as hi s commutativit y task , except tha t it involve d thre e boxe s of beans instead of two . Presented symbolically , Langford ’s associativit y tas k ma y hav e been mor e closely analogou s to th e equatio n a 1 b 1 c 5 b 1 c 1 a tha n to th e equatio n (a 1 b) 1 c 5 a 1 (b 1 c) . However, in orde r to assess associativit y understanding, it is necessary to assess knowledge of decomposing and recombinin g sets. Fo r instance, Resnick and Omanso n (1987 ) reporte d an exampl e of associativit y knowledge amon g school childre n who solved problem s such as 23 1 8 by decomposing 23 int o 20 1 3 the n recon gurin g th e proble m int o (2 0 1 8) 1 3 (Resnick, 1992) . In thi s example , childre n decomposed on e adden d and then recom- bine d th e resulting numbers in a new order. This re ects aspects of th e principl e no t assessed by Langford . Canobi et al . (1998 ) examine d proble m relationship s of th e for m (a 1 b) 1 c 5 a 1 b 1 c and a 1 b 1 c 5 a 1 (b 1 c), thereb y assessing aspects of associa- tivit y relate d to additiv e compositio n but not th e complet e principle . Therefore , th e role of knowledge about thre e rathe r tha n two sets as well as th e compositio n an d orderin g of sets in part – whol e developmen t is unclear. Children ’s responses to thes e mathematica l principle s may allo w th e identi catio n of pro le s of part – whol e knowledge . In support , Canobi et al . (1998 ) found tha t a ke y

aspect of individua l differences in conceptual knowledge was a tendency fo r childre n to

1. understand bot h commutativit y an d associativit y typ e relation s

2. understand only commutativit y typ e relation s or

3. understand neithe r for m of relatio n

Identifyin g th e mathematica l relationship s tha t childre n understand is consistent wit h calls fo r investigation s of knowledge pro le s across mathematica l task s (Bisan z & Lefevre , 1992 ; Sophian , 1997 ) and claim s tha t greate r attentio n should be pai d to individua l differences in children ’s mathematic s (Dowke r 1998 , Pellegrin o & Goldman, 1989 ; Siegler , 1987 , 1996 ; Widama n & Little , 1992) .

In additio n to helpin g explai n individua l differences in children ’s addition , examinin g

children ’ s emergin g knowledge of additio n principle s ha s th e potentia l to shed ligh t on th e connections childre n mak e between informa l knowledge an d schoo l mathematics . In particular , it ma y be useful to compar e th e additio n concepts of childre n wh o hav e no t ye t entered school wit h thos e who have begu n to lear n school mathematics . A study by Canob i et al . (1998 ) suggests tha t th e accuracy of 6- to 8-year-olds ’ explanation s of proble m relationship s based on additiv e composition , commutativit y an d associativit y

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is relate d to thei r proble m solvin g skills ; in particular , childre n wit h advanced pattern s of principl e knowledge are faster, mor e accurat e an d mor e exibl e at solvin g schoo l additio n problem s tha n othe r children . Conceptually advanced childre n ar e mor e likel y to repor t retrievin g proble m answers fro m memory , as well as usin g decompositio n (derive d fact) an d advanced counting strategie s to solv e problem s (Canobi et al. , 1998) . Althoug h thes e ndings sugges t that older children ’ s proble m solvin g is relate d to principle-typ e knowledge in th e context of symboli c problems , les s is know n abou t younger children ’s knowledge of concret e versions of th e principle s and their earl y counting an d proble m solvin g skills . Indeed, a study by Sophian , Harley , an d Marti n (1995 ) suggest s tha t childre n as young as thre e hav e some appreciatio n of principle s in physica l context s even when the y cannot enumerate th e sets to be compared . Sophia n an d colleague s argu e tha t this research supports claim s by Resnick (1992 , 1994 ) tha t fo r ver y youn g children , understanding of part – whol e relation s is indepen- dent of mental representation s underlying quanti catio n an d counting. Moreover, base d on a study of ve - to six-year-olds , Barood y an d Gannon (1984 ) argu e tha t children ’ s us e of th e min strateg y (counting on fro m th e large r addend) does no t necessarily re ect knowledge of commutativity . Thes e tw o studie s suggest tha t chil- dren’ s earl y counting an d proble m solvin g skill s ma y not be relate d to thei r knowledge of additio n principles . Nonetheless, other studies sugges t tha t conceptual knowledge underlies children ’s

us e of advance d countin g procedures to solv e additio n problem s (Cowan & Renton,

1996 ; Fuson , 1982 , 1988 ; Martins-Mourao & Cowan, 1998 ; Siegle r & Crowley, 1994) . Fo r example , some researcher s suggest tha t children ’ s us e of order-indifferent counting strategie s such as mi n re ect a functional understanding of commutativit y (Canobi et al. , 1998 ; Cowan & Renton, 1996 ; Groen & Resnick, 1977) . Similarly , based on children ’ s rearrangemen t of quantitie s in word problem s and construction of amounts wit h differen t coins as compare d wit h their countin g on , Martins-Mourao & Cowan (1998 ) argu e tha t counting on ma y be a consequence of understanding additiv e composition. Moreover, conceptual understanding of wha t constitutes a legitimat e additio n strategy precedes children ’s abilit y to count on fro m th e large r adden d instead

of counting al l addends startin g fro m on e (Siegle r & Crowley, 1994) . Counting on is

a mor e ef cien t strateg y becaus e childre n star t their nal count of th e tw o addends

fro m one of th e addends instead of startin g thei r nal count fro m zer o (therefor e to

solve 3 1 2, childre n count, “ three , four, ve ” ). Also, Fuso n argue s tha t countin g on

re ects a signi can t conceptual advanc e as it involve s representing an addend using a

cardina l numbe r in th e nal count (Fuson, 1982 , 1988) . However, althoug h separat e studie s sugges t tha t form s of conceptual understanding ma y be relate d to usin g particula r counting procedures when solvin g additio n problems , thi s work ha s tended to focu s on isolate d aspects of th e relationshi p between conceptual knowledge and proble m solvin g skill in olde r children . Researc h int o relation s between children ’s part –whole concepts an d earl y proble m solvin g is needed. In th e presen t research, childre n judged th e equivalenc e of pair s of additio n problem s presented usin g physica l objects. Proble m pair s varie d in th e order in whic h group s of object s were combine d as well as th e compositio n an d number of groups . In order to examin e knowledge relate d to different principles , childre n judge d th e equivalenc e of:

1. two- and three-addend commuted problem s such as a 1 b 5 b 1 a and a 1 b 1 c 5 a 1 c 1 b

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2. two- an d three-addend problem s in whic h sets were decomposed or combined , for example, (a 1 b) 5 a 1 b and (a 1 b) 1 c 5 a 1 b 1 c 3. proble m pair s analogou s to associativity : (a 1 b) 1 c 5 a 1 (b 1 c)

Parentheses in equation s were represented by group s presented in combinatio n (group s were presented in a singl e containe r not separat e containers). A larg e set of an unspeci ed numerosity was used, in order to preven t childre n fro m usin g computa- tional procedures such as mental calculation , counting or subitising. An interviewe r move d uncovered group s of objects so childre n did not need to remembe r verba l descriptions. Th e clai m that commutativit y knowledge precede s associativit y knowledge (Canobi et al. , 1998 ; Clos e & Murtagh , 1986 ; Langford , 1981 ) was explore d by addressing thre e issues. Th e rs t was whethe r this ndin g would be supported for concrete version s of th e principles . Th e second was whether there are differences between children ’s responses to proble m pair s designed to re ec t additiv e compositio n and commutativit y and between thei r responses to proble m pair s designed to re ec t additiv e compositio n and associativity . Explorin g thi s issu e would provid e insigh t int o whethe r children ’s dif cultie s in understanding associativit y ar e du e to a weakness in understanding additiv e composition, an d whethe r early form s of additiv e compositio n understanding preced e commutativit y knowledge, as migh t be expected on th e basi s of Resnick’s theor y (1986 , 1992) . Th e third issu e was th e involvemen t of thre e rathe r tha n tw o sets in associativity . If th e relativ e dif cult y of associativit y is only due to th e nee d to consider thre e sets, childre n should nd it mor e dif cult to judge additiv e compositio n and commutativit y problem s involvin g thre e rathe r tha n two groups . Examinin g these issues was expecte d to provid e insigh t int o th e relationship s between knowledge of differen t principles , an d wha t aspects of th e comple x associativit y principl e ar e dif cult for childre n (th e presence of thre e sets and / or th e decomposition of sets and / or recombinatio n of sets). More generally , examinin g thes e issues was expecte d to provid e insigh t int o th e development of children ’s part – whol e knowledge in th e context of physica l objects. In additio n to explorin g th e relativ e dif culty of part – whol e concepts, th e researc h was designe d to compar e th e understanding of childre n who have jus t entered school to tha t of younger children . Examinin g ag e grou p differences was expecte d to provid e insigh t int o how conceptual understanding develops afte r childre n enter school. How- ever, focussing on ag e grou p differences alon e could lea d to an inaccurat e pictur e of developmen t because importan t individua l differences amon g childre n of th e sam e age could be overlooked . Therefore , in additio n to comparin g th e performanc e of age groups , a cluster analysi s explorin g differen t pro le s of performanc e was conducted. Th e relationshi p between children ’s conceptual judgements an d proble m solvin g wit h th e ai d of counters was als o examined . Given previou s research indicatin g tha t sophisticated countin g strategie s hav e conceptual underpinnings (Canobi et al. , 1998 ; Cowan & Renton, 1996 ; Fuson , 1982 , 1988 ; Martins-Mourao & Cowan, 1998 ; Siegle r & Crowley, 1994) , part – whol e knowledge was expected to be relate d to using order- indifferent counting strategie s an d counting on strategies . Moreover, base d on researc h int o older children ’ s proble m solvin g an d judgements of symboli c problem s (Canobi et al. , 1998) , it was hypothesised tha t children ’s pattern s of conceptual judgements would be relate d to thei r proble m solvin g accuracy . Th e relativ e dif culty of concrete versions of additio n principle s an d individua l differences in conceptual knowledge were explore d in tw o studies. Study 1 involve d

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preschool and schoo l children , enablin g an exploratio n of age grou p differences. In Study 2 schoolchildre n solve d school additio n problem s as well as makin g conceptual judgements, enablin g an examinatio n of relation s between conceptual knowledge and proble m solving .

Stud y 1: Method

Participants

Participant s attended a primar y (elementary ) school or kindergarte n in multicultural , lower-to-middle socioeconomic status suburbs in a larg e Australia n city . Ther e were 49 participants : 11 boy s and 13 girl s in kindergarte n (preschool) whos e mea n age s were 5 year s 2 months (SD 5 3 months) an d 5 year s 2 months (SD 5 5 months) respectively , and 10 boy s an d 15 girl s in preparator y (reception ) grad e whose mea n age s were 5 year s 11 months (SD 5 4 months ) an d 6 year s 2 months (SD 5 4 months) respectively . Th e parent s of th e childre n gav e writte n consent to thei r participation .

Materials and Procedure

An additio n principle s judgemen t task was administere d in order to explor e th e children ’ s understanding of concrete version s of additiv e composition , commutativit y and associativity . Th e task involve d makin g judgements abou t th e equivalenc e of pair s of additio n problem s presented using group s of objects. Simila r to th e procedure adopted by Sophia n et al. (1995) , childre n mad e judgements abou t th e equivalenc e of conceptually relate d an d unrelate d pair s of problem s in th e context of deciding whethe r tw o toy s ha d been give n th e sam e number of objects. A femal e experimente r interviewe d childre n individuall y in tw o 15 – 25 minut e videotape d sessions becaus e pilo t work reveale d tha t some of th e younge r childre n foun d it dif cult to concentrate throughou t one lon g session. At th e star t of th e rs t session, th e interviewer invite d childre n to play a gam e in which tw o to y bear s received some smartie s (sweets simila r to M&Ms), askin g the m to judge whether th e bear s ha d th e sam e numbe r of smarties . Th e interviewer tol d childre n tha t the y di d not hav e to count th e smarties . Sh e showed them tw o 5c m x 3. 5 cm blu e boxes , saying, “ Look, thes e boxe s ar e th e same . The y bot h hav e thre e blu e smartie s in them. ” She then repeated th e procedure wit h tw o gree n boxes, eac h containin g fou r gree n smarties . Th e interviewe r als o showed childre n two re d boxes , each containin g 16 re d smartie s pile d on top of each othe r so tha t the y could not be counted. In orde r to prevent childre n fro m calculatin g mentally , th e interviewer did not mention th e numerosity of th e re d smartie s but sai d tha t th e tw o re d boxe s contained th e sam e number of re d smarties . Childre n were not allowe d to touc h th e displays . Childre n sat facin g tw o toy bears . Eac h toy ha d thre e empt y containers in fron t of it . In order to familiaris e childre n wit h th e tas k an d to chec k tha t the y remembere d tha t matchin g boxe s contained equal numbers of smarties , th e interviewer administere d practic e trial s at th e star t of th e sessions, in which she poured a singl e bo x of smartie s int o a container in front of eac h toy . As she distributed th e smarties , th e interviewe r described he r action s (“ Bil l get s a box of re d smartie s an d Kat e get s a bo x of re d smarties. ” ). After distributin g th e smarties , she asked , “ Do Bil l an d Kat e hav e th e sam e numbe r of smarties? ” She then informe d childre n whethe r thei r judgemen t was correct, describin g th e displa y (“ Yes ! Bill ’ s go t a box of re d smartie s and Kate ’s go t a bo x of re d

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smarties . So they do hav e th e sam e numbe r of smarties. ” ) Afte r childre n responded correctl y to thre e consecutive randomly ordere d practic e trials , includin g one involvin g th e sam e numbe r of smartie s an d on e involvin g a different numbe r of smarties , th e interviewe r administere d th e tes t trials . Th e tes t trial s were simila r to th e practic e trial s except tha t th e interviewe r gav e two or thre e group s of smartie s to eac h toy , in effect presentin g childre n wit h a pai r of additio n problems . Tabl e I shows tha t in orde r to measure children ’ s knowledge of additio n principle s in a concrete context , some pair s of problem s were conceptually related . In orde r to assess commutativit y knowledge , trial s involve d judging th e equiv - alenc e of two problems , eac h comprisin g two group s of smartie s in separat e containers, but wit h th e group s presented in a differen t order. In order to assess knowledge abou t additiv e composition , trial s involve d judging th e equivalenc e of a proble m in whic h two group s were combine d (i n a singl e container) an d one in which th e equivalen t group s were presented in separat e containers . Three-grou p order an d compositio n trial s were exactl y th e sam e as thes e two-group trials , except tha t the y involve d thre e group s of smartie s instead of two. Th e purpos e of testing commutativit y an d additiv e compositio n knowledge in th e context of thre e group s of objects was to examin e whether th e involvemen t of thre e sets increase s th e dif culty of principl e judgements. Orde r of compositio n trial s involve d changin g th e order in whic h tw o ou t of thre e group s were combined in a singl e container. As well as examinin g commutativit y knowledge , th e trial s were designed to test whethe r responses to compositio n trial s were associate d wit h comparin g sets presented in combinatio n wit h sets presented separatel y (additiv e compositio n knowledge) or wit h judging an y trial s involvin g set s presented in combination . Recomposition trial s involve d problem s containing thre e group s in whic h differen t pair s of group s were combined. The y were designe d to address associativit y knowledge . In on e problem , th e rst two sets were combine d (i n a singl e container) while th e thir d se t was presented separately . In th e other problem , th e rst set was presented in a singl e container whil e th e othe r tw o sets were combined. Childre n judged thre e example s of eac h of th e six type s of trial s described in Tabl e I. All tes t trial s include d th e grou p of 16 re d smartie s in order to measure conceptual knowledge independently of mental calculatio n or counting. Th e interviewer distribute d smartie s fro m lef t to righ t in such a way tha t al l group s remaine d visibl e to children , so tha t they di d not nee d to rel y on thei r memor y of her action s or words to judge th e equivalenc e of two problems . Fo r example , in order to test commutativit y knowledge, th e rs t toy receive d a bo x of red s in it s rs t containe r and then fou r green s in it s next containe r an d th e second to y receive d fou r greens in it s rs t containe r and a bo x of reds in it s next container. As she distributed th e smarties , th e interviewer describe d he r action s (“ Bil l get s a box of reds, then he get s fou r greens . Kat e get s fou r greens, then she get s a box of reds.” ). Once th e smartie s were distributed, th e interviewe r asked , “ Do Bil l an d Kat e hav e th e sam e numbe r of smarties? ” After childre n judged whethe r th e “ additio n problems ” in eac h test displa y were equal , th e interviewer aske d the m to justify thei r responses (“ Wh y do yo u thin k that? ” ), bu t gav e no feedback. Childre n als o mad e nin e judgements about identity trial s in whic h problem s were exactl y th e sam e (fo r example. , “ Bil l get s thre e blues then he get s a box of reds. Kat e get s thre e blue s then she get s a bo x of reds.” ) and nine judgements abou t inequalit y trial s in which th e problem s were unrelated (fo r exampl e “ Bil l get s a box of red s an d thre e blues. Kat e get s thre e blues an d fou r greens. ” ). Thes e trial s were employe d because judging unequal problem s as equal or judging identical problem s as unequal would constitute evidence fo r response bias . Each chil d was presented wit h th e tes t

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K. H. Canobi et al.

T ABLE I. Example s of trials involvin g conceptually related problem s

Trial type

Equation a

Interviewer’ s description

2-grou p order

r 1 3

Bil l get s a bo x of reds (pour s int o container ) the n he get s thre e blue s (pour s int o second container). Kate get s thre e blue s (pour s int o container) the n sh e get s a bo x of reds (pour s int o second container).

3 1 r

3-grou p order

r 1 3 1 4

Bil l get s a bo x of reds (pour s int o container ) the n he get s thre e blue s (pour s int o second container) the n he get s four greens (pour s int o second container). Kate get s a bo x of red s (pour s int o container) the n sh e get s four greens, (pour s int o second container) the n sh e get s thre e blue s (pour s int o thir d container )

r 1 4 1 3

Order-of-

r 1 (3 1 4)

Bil l get s a bo x of reds (pour s int o container ) the n he get s thre e blue s an d four greens (pour s int o second container). Kate get s a bo x of reds (pour s int o container ) the n she get s four greens an d thre e blue s (pour s int o second container).

composition

 

r 1 (4 1 3)

2-group

(r 1 3)

Bil l get s a bo x of reds an d thre e blue s (pour s int o container). Kate get s a bo x of reds (pour s int o container ) the n she get s thre e blue s (pour s int o second container).

composition

 

r 1 3

3-group

(r 1 3) 1 4

Bil l get s a bo x of reds an d thre e blue s (pour s int o container ) the n he get s four greens (pour s int o second container). Kate get s a bo x of reds (pour s int o container ) the n she get s thre e blue s (pour s int o second container ) the n she get s four greens (pour s int o thir d container).

composition

 

r 1 3 1 4

Recompositio n

(r 1 3) 1 4

Bil l get s a bo x of reds an d thre e blue s (pour s int o int o container ) the n he get s four greens (pour s int o second container). Kate get s a bo x of reds (pour s int o container ) the n she get s thre e blue s an d four greens (pour s int o second container).

r 1 (3 1 4)

a ‘ r’ refers to 16 re d smarties, ‘ 3’ refers to thre e blu e smarties, ‘ 4’ refers to fou r green smarties, an d parentheses refer to combine d group s

trials , whic h included a mi x of order, composition , identity and inequalit y trials , in one of tw o rando m sequences. Eac h sequence of test trial s was split int o tw o sessions of 18 tes t trials , in which childre n were asked to judge and to justify thei r judgements, and for whic h th e order was counterbalanced. Children ’s judgements were coded as correc t if the y stated tha t problem s containin g th e sam e group s of smartie s were equal an d problem s containin g different group s of smartie s were not. Children ’s justi cation s were coded according to whethe r they mad e reference to th e experimenta l manipulatio n (such as notin g tha t group s of smartie s were combine d for on e to y bu t place d in separat e containers fo r th e othe r toy) an d th e numerosities (colours ) of th e group s in eac h proble m (for exampl e notin g that problem s containe d th e sam e groups) .

Stud y 1: Results an d discussion

Th e purpos e of Study 1 was to explor e th e relativ e dif culty of judgin g differen t additio n principle s in th e context of physica l objects an d to examin e age-relate d

Children ’s Understandin g of Additio n Concepts

521

TABLE II. Means (an d standar d deviations ) judgemen t scores in Stud y 1 as a function of Ag e Group

Trial

Ag e 4–5

Ag e 5– 6

Two-grou p order Three-group order Two-grou p compositio n Three-group compositio n

70 (31 ) 74 (30 ) 58 (38 ) 57 (37 )

85 (31)

84 (33)

85 (29)

85 (31)

Recomposition 54 (39 ) 74 (38)

n

23

25

Note: Judgemen t scores are th e percentage accuracy of children’ s judgement s of conceptually related problems adjuste d for thei r incorrect judgement s of nin e in - equalit y problems . Ther e wer e three judgement s of eac h typ e of trial.

change s in children ’s part – whol e knowledge. Initially , children ’ s judgements of identity and inequalit y trial s were examine d in orde r to detect evidence of response bias . One chil d judge d al l proble m pair s as unequal and was not included in furthe r analyses. Othe r children ’s judgements were fairl y accurat e for identity (mea n 5 95%, SD 5 11) and inequalit y trial s (mea n 5 87%, SD 5 22) , suggesting a goo d understanding of th e task. In order to adjus t for a possibl e positiv e response bia s and control fo r chance responding, eac h child ’s percentag e of fals e positiv e judgements (that inequalit y prob - lem s were equal ) was subtracte d fro m his / he r percentag e of correct positiv e judgements (tha t conceptually relate d problem s were equal) . Durin g th e testing, childre n did no t appea r to notice th e experimenta l manipulatio n in orde r of compositio n trials . This was probabl y becaus e order of compositio n trial s were th e only trial s in which th e nal displa y in th e tw o problem s was identical . Only tw o childre n faile d to judge ever y orde r of compositio n tria l correctl y so these trial s were not analyse d further . Th e comparativ e dif culty of concret e version s of additiv e composition, commutativ - it y and associativit y principle s was examine d by comparin g two-group order, two-grou p compositio n and recompositio n judgements. Repeated Wilcoxo n tests were employe d becaus e thi s is a relativel y powerfu l non-parametri c approac h to repeated measures designs and is appropriat e when planne d pair-wis e comparison s are of interest, pro - vide d a conservativ e alph a leve l is adopte d (Marascuil o & McSweeney, 1977) , therefor e an alph a leve l of .0 1 was used. Tabl e II show s tha t th e accuracy of compositio n judgements di d no t differ fro m recompositio n or orde r judgements (z 5 2 1.99, P 5 0.05, and z 5 2 1.81, P 5 0.07 , respectively) , althoug h th e latte r ma y be mainl y du e to th e older children ’s simila r performanc e on orde r an d compositio n trial s as th e younger childre n had considerably lower mean score s fo r compositio n tha n orde r trials . As expected , orde r judgements were mor e accurat e tha n recompositio n judgements (z 5 2 3.06, P 5 0.002) . This supports previou s research indicatin g tha t commutativit y precedes associativit y understanding (Canobi et al. , 1998 ; Close & Murtagh , 1986 ; Langford , 1981) . However, grou p numbe r ha d no effect on orde r or compositio n judgements (z 5 2 0.71, P 5 0.48 and z 5 2 0.49, P 5 0.9 6 respectively) , suggestin g tha t th e comparativ e dif culty of associativit y is no t du e to th e nee d to consider thre e sets. Mann-Whitne y U tests were employe d to examin e differences in th e part –whole knowledge of th e four- to ve-year-ol d preschoolers an d th e ve - to six-year-ol d

522 K. H. Canobi et al.

TABLE III. Means (an d standar d deviations ) of th e percentage s of different justi cation type s for correct judgement s in Stud y 1

Trial

Ag e 4–5

Ag e 5– 6

Two-grou p order Same groups Different order Three-group order Same groups Different order Two-grou p compositio n Same groups Different combinatio n Three-group compositio n Same groups Different combinatio n Recomposition Same groups Different combinatio n

83 (28 ) 12 (31)

89 (25)

3

(9)

86 (21 ) 4 (21)

79 (30)

7 (16)

85 (25 )

83 (33)

2

(7

)

0

88 (27 )

91 (24)

0

2

(7)

72 (38 )

93 (24)

0

0

n

23

25

Note : There wer e thre e judgement s an d justi cations give n for eac h typ e of trial.

schoo l children . Becaus e no differences were found in th e accuracy of children ’s judgements of two- an d three-grou p trials , thes e score s were combined , a Bonferroni- typ e adjustment was mad e to th e alph a leve l of th e thre e tests and a leve l of 0.01 7 was adopted . Tabl e II show s tha t childre n in both ag e group s tended to mak e extremel y accurat e commutativit y (order) judgement s an d less accurat e judgements of concrete versions of associativit y (recompositio n trials ) an d ther e were no age relate d improve - ments in order or recompositio n judgements (z 5 2 1.96, P 5 0.05 and z 5 2 1.95, P 5 0.05 , respectively) . However, th e accuracy of children ’ s judgements of compositio n

trial s suggests tha t th e olde r children ’ s concret e understanding of additiv e compositio n

is superior to tha t of younger childre n (z 5 2 2.65, P 5

Justi cation s for correc t judgements ar e summarise d in Tabl e III . Justi cation s for incorrect judgements showed no discernabl e pattern . Tabl e II I show s tha t for bot h orde r and compositio n trials , childre n who mad e correct judgements tended to focus on whethe r th e sam e group s of objects were presen t in bot h problems , rathe r tha n on differences between problems . Speci cally , mos t childre n justi ed thei r correc t judge- ments of order an d compositio n trial s by describing th e sets tha t were presen t in bot h addition s (fo r example , “ Bil l ha s green s and red s an d Kat e ha s th e green s an d reds too.” ) or simpl y statin g that th e sam e set s were presen t (fo r example , “ Bil l an d Kat e hav e th e sam e smarties.” ). Such justi cation s on recompositio n trial s appeare d mor e common amon g olde r children . Fe w childre n mad e referenc e to th e experimenta l manipulatio n tha t le d to differences between th e problem s whe n explainin g thei r correct judgements. Tha t is , few childre n stated tha t group s had been distribute d in differen t orders or combined in differen t ways . Thus , correct judgements appea r to re ec t an abilit y to concentrate on th e equivalenc e of group s of objects in pair s of problems , despite differences in th e way s these group s were combined . Overall , th e results of Stud y 1 sugges t tha t concrete versions of th e additio n

0.008).

Children ’s Understandin g of Additio n Concepts

523

principle s are quit e salien t even to preschoolers but as childre n enter schoo l the y develop in thei r understanding tha t group s of objects ca n be though t of as being mad e up of combination s of smalle r groups . Th e results als o sugges t that understanding associativit y in th e context of physica l objects is mor e dif cult tha n understanding commutativit y an d tha t this is due to differences in th e conceptual reasoning involve d (understanding how sets ca n be decomposed and recombined ) no t merel y to differ- ences in th e number of sets.

Stud y 2: Method

Participants

Participant s attende d preparator y grad e in tw o primar y schools in multicultural , lower- to-middle socioeconomic statu s suburb s in a larg e Australia n city. Ther e were 45 participants : 21 boy s and 24 girl s whos e mea n age s were 6 year s (SD 5 4 months) and 6 year s 1 mont h (S D 5 3 months ) respectively . Th e parent s of th e childre n gav e writte n consent to thei r participation . Preschoo l childre n were not included because the y were generall y unable to solv e additio n problems .

Materials and procedure

Th e material s and procedure fo r Stud y 2 were th e sam e as thos e fo r Stud y 1, except tha t in on e of th e judgemen t task sessions, childre n in Stud y 2 als o complete d a ten-minute proble m solvin g task . (Tas k orde r was counterbalanced.) Th e additio n proble m solvin g tas k was designed to examin e th e ways in which childre n use counters to solv e a set of additio n problem s in order to provid e a basi s for explorin g th e relationshi p between emergin g conceptual knowledge and proble m solvin g abilities . Fourteen single-digi t additio n problem s were presented on separat e 30 cm by 21 cm sheet s in th e forma t a 1 b 5 ?. Th e interviewe r uncovere d problem s on e afte r th e other , and rea d them ou t aloud . Problem s were constructed by randoml y selectin g two addends between one an d ten. No numbe r appeare d twice in one problem . Th e positio n of th e large r adden d was counterbalanced. Half of th e childre n solved th e problem s in one rando m sequence and half in a differen t rando m sequence. Th e interviewer drew children ’ s attentio n to counters place d on th e tabl e in front of them by sayin g “ yo u ca n us e thes e counters if yo u want. ” Th e interviewe r als o tol d them tha t “ it doesn’ t matte r how yo u work th e problem s out” so the y would not regar d any proble m solvin g strategie s as unacceptable (Siegler, 1987) . As childre n solve d eac h problem , th e interviewe r note d whether they used a covert or overt strategy . Childre n were not asked to describe thei r solution procedures because pilotin g reveale d tha t the y foun d thi s quit e dif cult an d th e focu s of th e study was on thei r over t strategie s wit h counters. Over t procedures were coded accordin g to whether childre n counted verbally , used thei r nger s or used counters. Base d on th e rang e of strategie s tha t childre n used in pilo t work, countin g procedure s were coded accordin g to whethe r children :

· counted ou t each adden d before conducting a nal count (for 3 1 2 counting, “ one, two , three,” (pause ) “ one, two, ” then , “ one , two, three, four, ve. ” )

· used counters/ nger s as tag s without counting ou t each adden d initiall y (for 3 1 2 counting, “ one, two , three,” the n counting on , “ four, ve. ” )

· starte d thei r nal count fro m an addend rathe r tha n zer o (for 3 1 2 countin g on “ three , four, ve.” )

524 K. H. Canobi et al.

· represented addends usin g ngers/ counters withou t overtly undertakin g a nal count (for 3 1 2 countin g “ one, two , three,” (pause ) “ one, two, ” then , “ ther e ar e ve altogether. ” ). This recognitio n strateg y is simila r to th e “ ngers ” strateg y identi ed by Siegle r an d Robinson (1982 ) an d Siegle r and Shrage r (1984) .

Th e order in which childre n counted th e addends was als o recorded .

Stud y 2: Results an d discussion

Th e analyse s addressed thre e mai n issues. First , th e relativ e dif culty of judgin g concrete version s of additio n principle s was explored . Second, th e relatio n between emergin g conceptual understanding and earl y proble m solvin g was addressed by explorin g relation s between children ’ s judgements of principle s an d aspects of thei r proble m solvin g such as accuracy an d th e use of advanced counting strategie s involvin g counting on an d order-indifference. Third , th e nature of individua l differences in children ’ s knowledge abou t additio n principle s in both studies was explore d using a cluste r analysis . As in Study 1, childre n were accurat e at judging identity trial s (mea n 5 98%, SD 5 5% ) an d inequalit y trial s (mea n 5 96%, SD 5 8% ) and correct conceptual judge- ments were adjusted fo r fals e positives . As for Stud y 1 an alph a leve l of 0.0 1 was adopted fo r th e repeated Wilcoxo n tests. Similarl y to Study 1, Tabl e IV show s tha t for Study 2 althoug h th e accuracy of compositio n judgements did not diffe r fro m recompo- sitio n or order judgements (z 5 -1.06, P 5 0.29 and z 5 2 2.36, P 5 0.02 , ns , respect- ively) , children ’ s two-group order judgements were more accurat e tha n thei r recompositio n judgements ( z 5 2 2.81, P 5 0.005) . Accuracy leve l di d not differ be- twee n two-grou p an d three-grou p judgements (z 5 2 1.67, P 5 0.1 0 fo r order trial s and z 5 2 1.59, P 5 0.11 fo r compositio n trials) . Therefore , lik e Study 1, th e results of Study 2 suggest that concrete versions of associativit y ar e mor e dif cult tha n commuta - tivit y because associativit y involve s decomposing an d recombinin g sets— not becaus e it involve s thre e rathe r tha n two sets. Tabl e IV show s that , simila r to Stud y 1, children ’s orde r and compositio n justi cation s for correct judgements indicat e tha t success in th e judgemen t tas k involve d concentratin g on th e equivalenc e of group s of objects in pair s of problems , despite differences in th e way s thes e group s were combined . In order to explor e relation s between children ’s emergin g conceptual knowledge and

TABLE IV . Means (an d standar d deviations ) of judgemen t scores an d th e percentage frequency of different type s of justi cations for correct judgement s in Stud y 2

Trial

Justi cations for correct judgement s

Judgemen t scores

Sam e groups

Different order/ compositio n

Two-grou p orde r

79 (33)

87 (27)

16 (33)

Three-group orde r

76

(35)

91 (23)

13 (28)

Two-grou p compositio n

68 (41)

86 (30)

10 (29)

Three-group compositio n

72

(40)

90 (24)

7 (21)

Recomposition

66 (42)

88 (25)

2 (11)

Note: Judgemen t scores are percentage accuracy of judgement s of thre e trials of conceptually related problems for eac h trial type , adjuste d for incorrect judgement s of nin e inequalit y problem s mad e by the 45 children in Stud y 2.

Children ’s Understandin g of Additio n Concepts

525

TABLE V. Means (an d standar d deviations ) of th e frequency an d accuracy of children’s proble m solvin g strategie s

Strategy

% use a

% strategy user s b

% correct

Covert Advance d count Recognition Count-all Other

32 (36)

69

67 (38)

5

(10)

33

75 (41)

8 (10)

60

79 (37)

48 (35)

76

77 (24)

6 (18)

29

46 (48)

a Overall frequency of reported procedure us e amon g th e 45 childre n in Study 2

b Percentage of children who reported usin g a procedur e to solv e at least on e proble m ou t of 14 an d on who m accuracy scores are base d

proble m solvin g skills , their responses to th e additio n proble m solvin g task were analysed. Children ’s proble m solvin g accurac y range d fro m 0– 100 % (mean 5 64, SD 5 32) . However, unexpectedly, ther e was no relationshi p between th e accurac y of children ’ s proble m solvin g and thei r conceptual judgements (Spearman ’ s rh o value s were .1 2 for order, .0 5 for compositio n and 2 .04 fo r recomposition). Thi s contrasts wit h th e strong an d systemati c relationshi p between proble m solvin g accuracy and knowledge of additio n concepts found in olde r childre n (Canobi et al. , 1998) . Th e distributio n of children ’ s proble m solvin g procedure s is presented in Tabl e V, togethe r wit h accurac y fo r differen t procedures. (Because strategie s involvin g nger s were extremel y infrequent , they were groupe d together wit h thos e involvin g counters.) As expecte d fro m earlie r studie s (Canobi et al. , 1998 ; Siegler , 1987) , childre n often used mor e tha n on e proble m solvin g strateg y across th e set of problems . Indeed, base d on th e categorie s liste d in Tabl e V, only 16 % of childre n used a singl e strateg y to solv e al l problems , while 27 % used two, 40 % used three , and 17 % used more tha n thre e strategies. Tabl e V indicates tha t th e most common proble m solvin g procedure was counting all , in which childre n counted counters or nger s for eac h addend, and the n counted th e tota l number of counters in th e combined set. Thi s procedure, though laborious , was quit e accurate. Childre n used recognitio n an d other counting strategie s much less often . More advanced counting procedures involve d eithe r counting bot h addends separatel y the n initiatin g th e nal count startin g fro m th e tota l numbe r in on e of these addends (counting on), or using th e counters as tags , countin g one addend and then counting on in a singl e count. Because these tw o advance d counting strategie s were relativel y infrequent but similar , the y were groupe d together . Th e tw o strategie s were judged as simila r because the y both involv e usin g counters to simultaneously represen t th e separat e addends an d th e combined se t in an additio n proble m an d thi s reduces th e numbe r of counts require d to solv e th e problem . Mann-Whitney test s were used to explor e whethe r childre n who used advanced countin g strategie s differed in thei r conceptual knowledge fro m thos e who did not , a Bonferroni-typ e adjustment to th e alph a leve l was mad e and a leve l of 0.01 7 was used. In support of researc h indicatin g tha t advanced countin g strategie s hav e conceptual underpinnings (Fuson, 1982 , 1988 ; Martins-Mourao & Cowan, 1998 ; Siegle r & Crowley, 1994) , Tabl e VI shows tha t childre n who used advance d countin g procedures (involvin g usin g counters to simul- taneously represent th e part s and th e whole ) mad e mor e accurat e orde r judgements

526

K. H. Canobi et al.

T ABLE VI. Means (an d standar d deviations ) of children’ s judgmen t scores as a function of thei r us e of advanced counting problem-solvin g strategie s

Advanced counting strategie s

Order

Compositio n

Recompositio n

n

Absent

55 (41 ) 85 (24 )

52 (43 ) 68 (40 )

59 (43)

30

Present

79 (38)

15

Note: Judgemen t scores ar e percentage accuracy of children’ s judgement s of thre e trials of conceptually related problem s for each trial type , adjuste d for thei r incorrect judgement s of nin e inequalit y problems .

tha n othe r childre n (z 5 2 2.39, P 5 0.017) . However, this differenc e did not exten d to compositio n (z 5 2 1.03, P 5 0.30 ) or recompositio n judgement s (z 5 2 1.80, P 5 0.07) . Thi s ndin g suggests tha t commutativit y knowledge is relate d to under- standin g tha t counters ca n be used to signif y bot h th e addends an d th e tota l simul- taneously. Th e result support s previou s ndings tha t childre n who us e advanced counting strategie s such as mi n (counting on fro m th e large r addend) ten d to have a goo d understanding of commutativit y (Canobi et al. , 1998 ; Cowan & Renton, 1996) . Tabl e V show s tha t some childre n used a recognitio n strategy in which the y counted ou t each set, and the n name d th e total number of item s in th e combined set withou t overtl y undertakin g a nal count. Childre n using thi s strategy ma y hav e arrive d at th e nal number of counters or nger s through covert counting, subitising or a kinaesthetic strategy . Tabl e V als o show s tha t covert proble m solvin g procedures were quit e common . However, th e accurac y of covert procedures was quit e low , suggestin g tha t they ma y have involve d guessin g or inaccurat e cover t countin g an d should not be accepte d as evidence of retrieva l of answers fro m memor y (a s is sometime s assume d in olde r children) . Th e use of counters appears to hav e assiste d childre n who used th e relativel y unsophisticated counting al l strateg y to achiev e accuracy rate s as hig h as those achieve d by childre n who used mor e sophisticated counting strategies . In contrast, Canobi et al . (1998 ) foun d countin g all to be th e leas t accurat e strateg y amon g olde r children . Thi s differenc e may impl y tha t mea n accuracy levels ar e not as useful an index of proble m solvin g skil l in research involvin g youn g childre n wit h acces s to counters as in studie s of older childre n wh o do not hav e acces s to counters. A measure of order-indifference was calculate d as th e percentag e of problem s for whic h an over t counting strateg y was used wit h addends counted in a differen t orde r fro m tha t in whic h the y appeared . In keeping wit h previou s researc h (Canobi et al. , 1998) , th e measure was computed usin g th e seven problem s fo r which th e large r adden d was presented second as ther e is no apparen t ef ciency associated wit h order-indifferen t countin g strategie s when th e large r addend is presented rst. Unfortu- nately, such strategie s were used on a ver y small percentag e of problem s (mea n 5 4, SD 5 10) , makin g it dif cult to test whethe r they were relate d to conceptual measures. Mos t childre n were ver y rigid , alway s operatin g on proble m addends in th e orde r in whic h the y were presented. Moreover, of th e nine childre n who used order-indifferen t strategies , si x only used thes e strategie s once, which ma y only sugges t occasional inattentio n rathe r tha n genuin e exibilit y in treatmen t of addend order. However, give n th e debate over whethe r commutativit y knowledge precede s th e use of order-indifferen t counting strategie s (Barood y & Gannon, 1984 ; Cowan & Renton, 1996) , it is of interes t to not e that , wit h a singl e exception, al l childre n who used an order-indifferen t strateg y judged th e majorit y of commuted additio n problem s correctly .

Children ’s Understandin g of Additio n Concepts

527

Combine d Analysis of Studie s 1 and 2

In order to explor e individua l differences in conceptual understanding, a cluste r analysi s was conducted on th e judgemen t score s of childre n in bot h studies. (Th e sam e judgemen t task was used in Studie s 1 an d 2. ) Childre n in bot h studies were included in a single analysi s in orde r to increas e th e likelihoo d of identifyin g small subgroups wit h distinctiv e pattern s of conceptual knowledge . Children ’s pattern s of judgements were identi ed usin g Ward ’s clustering algorith m (SPSS, 1999) . Th e clusterin g algor - ith m was applie d to children ’ s judgemen t score s fo r two- an d three-grou p order and compositio n trial s an d recompositio n trials . A ve-cluster solution , which accounted for 88% of th e total variatio n in children ’ s judgement scores, was selected. Th e six-cluste r solution comprise d smal l group s and accounted fo r 90% of th e varianc e an d th e four-cluster solutio n accounted fo r 85 % of th e variance . Tabl e VI I show s tha t th e pattern s of judgements associated wit h th e clusters were distinc t an d partiall y ordered. Childre n in Cluster 1 displaye d th e mos t sophisticate d patter n of performance , per- formin g close to ceilin g level . It is noteworthy that th e majorit y of school childre n ( ve - to six-year-olds ) an d about a thir d of th e preschoo l childre n (four- to ve-year-olds ) were in th e Cluster 1. This indicate s tha t fo r man y childre n in th e sample , bu t particularl y for school children , th e additio n principle s presented in th e context of th e physica l objects were ver y salient . Childre n in Clusters 2 an d 3 ha d simila r pro le s except tha t Cluster 3 childre n were muc h less accurat e overall . The y ha d simila r judgemen t score s on compositio n an d order trial s but were les s accurat e at judgin g recompositio n trials , supportin g earlie r ndings tha t associativit y judgements ar e less accurat e tha n commutativit y judgements. Cluster 4 childre n judge d orde r trial s accu- ratel y bu t judged compositio n an d recompositio n trial s inaccurately . Childre n in thi s subgrou p appea r to hav e some concrete versio n of commutativity , bu t not additiv e composition— a relativel y uncommon patter n of results tha t was not re ecte d in th e Wilcoxo n tests fo r differences in th e order and compositio n scores in eac h study. Childre n in Cluster 5 performe d clos e to oor level , makin g mainl y incorrec t judge- ments. Th e cluster analysi s supports th e result s of th e Wilcoxo n tests by indicatin g tha t man y childre n judge d order trial s mor e accurately tha n recompositio n trials . Th e presence of such childre n supports previou s ndings that concrete version s of th e associativit y principl e ar e relativel y dif cult fo r youn g childre n to understand (Lang- ford , 1981) . In addition , th e cluster analysi s indicate s tha t a smal l grou p of childre n ma y understand relation s between group s of objects base d on commutativit y but no t additiv e composition . Another interestin g ndin g is th e tendency for older childre n to

TABLE VII. Means (an d standar d deviations ) of judgemen t scores as a function of cluste r membershi p

Numbe r of childre n

Trial type

Age

Two-grou p Three-group Two-grou p Three-group

Cluster

orde r

orde r

compositio n compositio n Recompositio n

4– 5

5–6

1

98

(4 )

95 (10 )

 

96

(9 )

98

(4 )

97

(6)

7

43

2

82 (19)

87 (13 )

82 (19)

80 (20)

62 (17)

6

9

3

40 (25)

34 (16 )

37 (25)

48 (18)

12 (16)

6

6

4

79 (29)

92 (12 )

3

(8 )

3

(8

)

14 (24)

4

4

5

8 (15)

0

(0

)

4 (12)

0

(0

)

0

(0)

0

8

528 K. H. Canobi et al.

respon d to th e principle s in an al l or nothin g manner . Tabl e VII show s tha t th e vas t majorit y of ve - to six-year-old s were in Clusters 1, 4 an d 5, indicatin g a consistent acceptance or rejection of an y give n principle . In contrast, th e majorit y of four- to ve-year-old s were in Clusters 2 and 3, indicatin g les s consistent judgements fo r at leas t some principles .

General Discussion

Th e purpose of th e researc h was to use th e mathematica l propertie s of whol e numbe r additio n to explor e children ’ s conceptual knowledge of ho w group s of objects ca n be combined. Th e result s ar e consistent wit h argument s tha t young childre n develop an understanding of additiv e composition , commutativit y and associativit y in th e context of physica l objects (Gelma n & Gallistel, 1978 ; Resnick, 1992) . In addition , th e results support th e usefulness of explorin g differen t pattern s in children ’s conceptual knowl- edge. Indeed, analyse s of children ’ s pattern s of judgements and of th e comparativ e dif culty of differen t principle s sugges t a developmental progressio n in part –whole understanding. On e grou p of childre n appear s to hav e a concrete knowledge tha t sets ca n be combine d in different orders without understanding tha t sets presented in combinatio n ar e equal to th e sam e sets presented separately. Thi s suggests tha t some childre n migh t acquire a primitiv e for m of commutativit y before understanding tha t group s of object s ar e additivel y composed of smalle r groups . Th e results als o support claim s tha t commutativit y knowledge precede s associativit y knowledge , and indicat e tha t it is th e conceptual relation s involve d in concrete versions of associativit y rathe r tha n th e mer e presence of thre e sets tha t make s th e principl e mor e dif cult. Consistent wit h previou s ndings , th e results als o sugges t tha t althoug h children ’s understanding of concrete versions of additiv e compositio n improve s afte r they ente r school, man y preschoolers understand that problem s ar e equal whe n th e sam e group s of object s ar e combine d in differen t orders or are decomposed an d recombined (Cowan & Renton, 1996 ; Sophia n et al. , 1995) . Finally , whil e th e systemati c relationship between proble m solvin g and conceptual knowledge found amon g olde r childre n by Canobi et al. (1998 ) was not present, th e emergenc e of advanced counting strategie s was relate d to commu- tativit y knowledge . Althoug h th e majorit y of childre n who participate d in th e study ha d a surprisingl y goo d understanding of th e additio n principle s presented in a concrete context, differen t pattern s of partia l knowledge were identi ed . Th e results support previou s researc h involvin g symboli c problems , whic h indicates tha t som e childre n who understand commutativit y hav e dif cultie s wit h associativit y (Canobi et al. , 1998) . Th e results als o indicat e tha t some childre n in th e presen t research ha d a concrete understanding of commutativit y but no t additiv e compositio n althoug h th e revers e patter n was no t found. Th e cluster solution suggests tha t some childre n acquir e some understanding tha t part s combined in different orders ar e equivalen t before the y full y appreciat e th e way s in which th e part s ca n be combined to for m a whol e (althoug h this nding was no t apparen t in th e separat e analyse s of judgement scores for eac h study). Th e identi catio n of such a conceptual pro le appear s inconsistent wit h Resnick’ s (1992 , 1994 ) clai m tha t additiv e compositio n knowledge is fundamental to children ’ s under- standin g of othe r principles . Moreover, failin g to understand tha t a combinatio n of two group s of objects is equal to those group s of objects presented separately indicates a failur e to understand additio n in a fundamental sense. Therefore , it ma y seem surpris -

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in g tha t some childre n seem to hav e acquire d an earl y versio n of commutativit y withou t such a basic additio n understanding. Nonetheless, Barood y an d Ginsburg (1986 ) hav e argue d tha t even childre n who have a ver y primitiv e notio n of additio n ma y hav e some understanding of th e role of orde r in addin g physica l objects. The y claim tha t on th e basi s of their computationa l experience, childre n lear n tha t it does no t matte r whethe r yo u star t wit h one se t of block s an d add anothe r set, or star t wit h th e second set and add th e rst set: th e result is stil l th e same . Barood y and Ginsburg argue d tha t thi s computation-base d knowledge does not necessarily impl y tha t childre n understand tha t additio n is a binary operatio n involvin g th e unio n of two sets. Indeed, it is possibl e tha t an understanding th e order-irrelevanc e countin g principl e (Gelma n & Gallistel , 1978 ) help s at leas t some childre n appreciat e of th e rol e of order in combinin g group s of objects. Knowledge tha t th e object s can be counted in any order to arriv e at th e tota l ma y lea d to recognitio n tha t tw o group s of objects combine d in differen t orders hav e th e sam e total . Th e present investigatio n int o children ’s knowledge of th e way s in whic h physica l object s ca n be combined supports th e suggestion that commutativit y knowledge pre - cedes associativit y knowledge (Canob i et al. , 1998 ; Clos e & Murtagh , 1986 ; Langford, 1981) . Th e curren t research suggests tha t differences in children ’ s performanc e on commutativit y an d associativit y item s ar e no t restricted to symboli c problem s and canno t be explaine d by appealin g to non-conceptual factor s such th e involvemen t of mor e dif cult computational , memoria l or verba l demands. Interestingly , th e presence of thre e rathe r tha n two group s in order an d compositio n trial s di d no t affec t th e accuracy of children ’ s judgements. This suggests tha t th e mer e presence of thre e sets is no t responsible fo r children ’s dif culties in understanding concrete version s of associa- tivity ; instead, thes e dif cultie s aris e due to th e conceptual demand s involve d in understanding tha t sets ca n be decomposed and recombine d in differen t ways . Althoug h some ag e grou p differences in conceptual understanding were found, th e presen t results als o support previou s research indicatin g tha t man y preschool childre n understand tha t problem s ar e equal when th e sam e group s of objects ar e combine d in differen t orders or ar e decomposed and recombined (Cowan & Renton, 1996 ; Sophia n et al. , 1995) . Th e accuracy wit h whic h even preschoolers judged th e principle s suggests tha t young childre n hav e a ric h knowledge of regularitie s in th e way s in whic h group s of objects ca n be joine d together and pulle d apart . Thes e ndings ar e in keepin g wit h theoretica l accounts suggestin g tha t children ’ s understanding of part – whol e concepts crucia l to school arithmeti c emerge s in th e context of th e physica l worl d (Resnick, 1992 , 1994) . Moreover, th e ndings sugges t tha t using th e forma l principle s as a framewor k allow s th e identi catio n of importan t developmental change s in children ’s knowledge . Fo r example , th e results sugges t tha t on e importan t conceptual gai n tha t man y childre n mak e afte r enterin g schoo l is a greate r appreciatio n tha t large r group s of object s are additivel y composed of smalle r groups . Th e current researc h int o childre n in thei r rs t yea r of school di d not revea l th e strong systemati c relationship between conceptual knowledge an d proble m solvin g foun d in childre n who ha d been attending school for mor e tha n a yea r (Canobi, in press; Canobi et al. , 1998) . Th e ndin g tha t conceptual judgements were not relate d to proble m solvin g accuracy is in keeping wit h research suggestin g that people often nd it dif cult to coordinate thei r knowledge of forma l an d informa l mathematic s (Nunes, Schliemann , & Carraher , 1993 ) and supports Resnick’ s (1992 , 1994 ) clai m tha t a protoquantitativ e part – whole schema emerge s separately fro m knowledge relate d to counting an d quanti cation . It ma y be th e case tha t man y childre n in th e sample ha d

530 K. H. Canobi et al.

no t reache d th e stag e in their mathematica l development in whic h protoquantitativ e part –whole knowledge and quanti catio n knowledge become integrated . Nonetheless, ther e was some indicatio n tha t th e form s of part – whol e knowledge explore d in th e curren t study interac t wit h proble m solvin g skills . In support of previou s research indicatin g tha t conceptual understanding precedes children ’ s us e of counting on procedure s (Fuson , 1982 , 1988 ; Martins-Mourao & Cowan, 1998 ; Siegle r & Crowley, 1994) , th e results sugges t tha t childre n who used advanced counting strate - gie s to solv e additio n problem s ha d a greate r understanding of concrete version s of commutativit y tha n those wh o di d not. Althoug h it is dif cult to explai n why th e childre n who used advanced counting strategie s did no t als o hav e a bette r under- standin g of additiv e compositio n and associativit y tha n thei r les s skille d counterparts, th e results do sugges t tha t some form s of principl e understanding are relate d to an abilit y to use counters to simultaneously represen t th e part s as well as th e whol e in proble m solving . Considered alongsid e th e othe r ndings , thi s result implie s that , for th e mos t developmentally advanced childre n in th e sample , ther e may hav e been an interactio n between knowledge of part – whol e relation s and countin g and proble m solvin g skills . However, th e majorit y of childre n in th e sampl e di d not appea r to mak e connections between thei r relativel y strong understanding of part – whol e concepts in th e context of th e physica l worl d and schoo l additio n problems . Th e results hav e importan t theoretical an d educational implications . The y sugges t tha t additio n principle s presented in th e context of physica l objects ar e quit e salien t to young childre n an d that man y childre n hav e a surprisingl y advanced concrete knowl- edge of such principle s even before they enter school. It seems likel y tha t such childre n would bene t fro m instruction in which explici t link s are mad e between thi s emergin g understanding an d th e proble m solvin g skill s tha t they ar e taugh t in school. Indeed, th e presen t study indicate s tha t th e few childre n who emplo y strategie s involvin g a mor e ef cient use of counters to solv e additio n problem s hav e a relativel y goo d under- standin g of commutativity-typ e relation s in th e physica l world. Furthe r research exam - inin g th e kinds of experiences tha t facilitat e th e emergence of knowledge abou t mathematica l propertie s such as commutativit y is likel y to prov e ver y useful. In particular , it ma y be helpfu l to explor e interventions designe d to hel p childre n to recognise pattern s in th e way s in whic h objects ca n be combined, progres s fro m concrete to mor e abstrac t versions of th e principles , an d apply part –whole knowledge to school-base d mathematica l problems . Differences in th e accurac y of children ’s judgements of trial s relate d to commutativity , additiv e composition, an d associativit y suggest tha t examinin g children ’ s knowledge of different mathematica l principle s wil l provid e insigh t int o change s in their domai n knowledge ove r time . Therefore , longitudi- nal research trackin g th e emergence of thes e form s of conceptual understanding is als o likel y to prov e informative . In conclusion, th e present study supports th e clai m tha t th e mathematica l propertie s of whol e number additio n provid e a useful framewor k for explorin g children ’ s concep- tual development (Gelma n & Gallistel , 1978 ; Langford , 1981 ; Resnick, 1992) . Th e results suggest tha t man y preschoolers kno w about relationship s base d on additio n principle s in th e context of combinin g set s of objects, an d tha t they ar e particularl y adept in recognisin g th e consequences of combinin g group s of objects in differen t orders. Moreover, at leas t for th e current sample , a key chang e in children ’ s knowledge afte r they enter school is a greate r recognitio n tha t larg e group s of objects ca n be though t of as bein g mad e up of combination s of smalle r groups . In addition , an analysi s of individual differences suggest s tha t some childre n recognis e th e equivalenc e of

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problem s in whic h group s of objects ar e combine d in differen t orders bu t not problem s in whic h group s of objects ar e decomposed an d recombined in differen t ways . These results support claim s tha t th e additio n principle s represen t fundamental propertie s of th e additio n operatio n an d tha t young childre n lear n abou t these propertie s throug h thei r experiences wit h physica l objects. Th e ndings als o indicat e tha t explorin g concrete version s of part – whol e concepts based on forma l additio n principle s provide s importan t informatio n abou t children ’ s conceptual developmen t in earl y mathematics .

Correspondence : Katherin e H. Canobi, Departmen t of Psychology , Universit y of Melbourne , Victoria , Australia , 301 0 (e-mail : khc@unimelb.edu.au).

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