# Using a Base-Ten Blocks Learning/Teaching Approach for First- and Second-Grade Place-Value and

Multidigit Addition and Subtraction Author(s): Karen C. Fuson and Diane J. Briars Source: Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Vol. 21, No. 3 (May, 1990), pp. 180206 Published by: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/749373 . Accessed: 12/03/2011 14:28

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Journalfor Researchin MathematicsEducation 1990, Vol. 21, No. 3, 180-206

USING A BASE-TEN BLOCKS LEARNING/ TEACHINGAPPROACHFOR FIRST- AND SECOND-GRADEPLACE-VALUEAND MULTIDIGIT ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION

KAREN C. FUSON, NorthwesternUniversity DIANE J. BRIARS, PittsburghPublic Schools

A learning/teaching approachused base-tenblocks to embodythe Englishnamed-valuesystem of numberwordsanddigit cardsto embodythe positionalbase-tensystem of numeration. Steps in additionand subtraction of four-digitnumberswere motivatedby the size of the blocks and then were carried out with the blocks; each step was immediately recorded with base-ten numerals.Childrenpracticedmultidigitproblemsof from five to eight places afterthey could successfully add or subtractsmallerproblemswithout using the blocks. In Study 1 six of the eight classes of firstand second graders(N = 169) demonstrated meaningfulmultidigitaddition and place-value concepts up to at least four-digit numbers;average-achieving first graders showed more limited understanding. Three classes of second graders(N = 75) completed the initial subtraction meaningfulsubtraction learninganddemonstrated concepts.In Study2 most classes (N = 783) in a large urbanschool districtlearnedat second gradersin 42 participating least four-digitaddition,and manychildrenin the 35 classes (N = 707) completingsubtraction work learnedat least four-digitsubtraction.

The English spoken system of numberwords is a named-valuesystem for the values of hundred,thousand,andhigher; a numberwordis said andthenthe value of that numberword is named. For example, with five thousandseven hundred names the value of the "five" to clarify that it is not five twelve, the "thousand" ones (= five) but is five thousands.In contrast,the system of writtenmultidigit numbermarksis a positionalbase-tensystem in which the values are implicit and are indicatedonly by the relativepositionsof the numbermarks. In orderto understand these systems of English words and writtennumbermarks for large multidigit numbers, children must construct named-value and positional base-ten conceptual structuresfor the words and the marks and relate these conceptual to each otherand to the words and the marks. structures English words for two-digit numbersare irregularin several ways and are not named-value,in contrastto Chinese (and Burmese, Japanese,Korean,Thai, and Vietnamese)words in which twelve is said "tentwo" and fifty seven is said "five ten seven."These irregularities make it much more difficult for English-speaking

Study I was fundedby a grantto the Universityof Chicago School MathematicsProject for handlingall of the field from the Amoco Foundation.Thanksgo to MaureenHanrahan details for Study 1; to GordonWillis for carryingout the data analyses for both studies;to Fred Carr,Tracy Klein, and Thuc Huong for careful grading,data entry,and erroranalyses for both studies;andespecially to the teachersof both studies who were willing to try something new because they thoughtit might help theirchildrenlearnbetter.Thanksalso to Art Baroody, Paul Trafton,and several anonymousreviewers who made helpful comments on earlierdrafts.

in press c). Davis & McKnight. 1976). a view that is inadequatein many ways and results in many errorsin place-value tasks and in multidigit addition and subtraction(Fuson. 1988. Japanese. These experiencesresultin manyU. Cobb & Wheatley. 1988. It provides childrenan opportunityto constructthe necessary meaningsby using
. Chang. In orderto use and understand English words and base-ten writtenmarksand add and subtractmultidigitnumbers.othercountriesstress masteryof sums and differences to 18 in the first grade.or Koreanchildrento constructnamed-value meanings for multidigit numbers (Fuson. In the United States the single-digit sums and differencesto 18 consume much of the first two grades. von Glasersfeld. Labinowicz.& Briars.S. Fuson. U. childrenalso show quite delayedunderstanding value concepts (Kamii. instructionin the additionand subtraction of Furthermore. Miura.In contrast. 1989..Taiwan. Miura. and they complete multidigit instructionby the thirdgrade. Richards. in press. 1985. Stigler. Koubaet al. 1988). Resnick of place& Omanson. Fuson.S. 1983. 1989). Labinowicz. 1980. Miuraet al. Fuson & Kwon. Miura& Okamoto. whole numberstypicallyis both delayed and extendedacross gradesmore thanin countrieslike China. in press a. English-speakingchildren use for a long time unitaryconceptual structuresfor two-digit numbers as counted collections of single objects or as collections of spoken words (Fuson. 1988. these early conceptual structurescan interferewith children's later constructionof named-valuemeanings. & Bartsch. in the United States. childrenconstructing conceptual structuresfor multidigit numbers as concatenated single-digit numbers. & Lesh. Song & Ginsburg.1987). in press a. 1988). The lack of verbal supportin the English languagefor named-valueor baseten concepts of ten makes it particularlyimportantthat supportfor constructing such ten-structured conceptions be provided in other ways to English-speaking children. Ross. Steffe & Cobb. 1986. It is an adaptationof an approachused by the first authorwith teachers and childrenfor 20 years (the teacherversion is in Bell. Steffe.Japan. 1982. 1988. Kouba et al. Richards. In the United Statessuch supportis rarelygiven or is insufficient. The learning/teaching approachused in the presentstudies was developed to meet these goals.& Cobb. 1988.and the Soviet Union thathave been characterized as fostering high mathematics achievement (Fuson.Childrenmore as sequentialprocedures commonly are taughtmultidigitadditionand subtraction of adding and subtractingsingle-digit numbersand writingdigits in certainlocations (Fuson.181 childrenthanfor Chinese. 1987. Even many children who carryout the algorithmscorrectly reasons for crucialaspectsof the procedo so procedurallyand do not understand dure or cannot give the values of the tradesthey are writingdown (Cauley. 1988)..childrenneed to link the words and the written marksto each otherand need to give meaningto both the wordsandthe marks. 1985..Kim. 1988a. & Okamoto.1987).and work on the multidigitalgorithmswith trading over 4 or 5 years beginningwith two-digit (carryingand borrowing)is distributed problems in second grade followed by the introductionof problems one or two digits largereach year.

English words. the blocks-to-written-marks Whenaddingand subtracting
.
fourthousand
two
hundred
fi ty
seven
4
2
5
7
fourbig cubes
two flats
five longs seven 4== =four two fiveseven littlecubes
approach. "* When childrenbegin to do writtenproblemswithoutblocks.base-tenblocks. and the positional base-ten writtenmarksare embodied by digit cards (numeralswritten on small individualcards).facilitate communication among the participantsin the learning/teachingapproach.andbase-tenwritten marksare strengthened by the constantuse of the three sets of words. "* both begin with four-digitproblems(or in some cases. Figure 1. Additionand subtraction these problemsimmediatelyfollow initial work with two-digit problems). they are allowed to leave the embodimentsand do problemsjust in writtenform whenever they feel comfortabledoing so. words for the block embodiment. "* Childrenwork with the learning/teaching approachfor many days. 1960). The English named-value system of words is embodiedby a set of base-tenblocks (Dienes. theirperformance is monitoredto ensurethatthey are not practicingerrors. The learning/teaching
Featuresof the approachin action are as follows: are made strongly and tightly: Each step with the blocks is immediately recorded with the writtenmarks.and supportthe constructionof links among the differentsystems and embodiments. digit cards. "* Linksamongthe Englishwords.182
Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching Approach
for each system a physical embodimentthat can direct their attentionto crucial meanings and help to constraintheir actions with the embodimentsto those consistent with the mathematicalfeaturesof the systems. links "* with the blocks.and words for the digit cards (see Figure 1) were used to help direct children'sattention to critical featuresof the mathematicalsystems and embodiments.

achievementlevel. there were the practical questions of whether the learning/teaching approachcould be distanced from its designer. all of the teachingwas done by classroomteachersusing lesson plans and student worksheets developed by the project designer.and teaching and supervisionof field supportpersonnel.much placevalue learning is combined with the work on multidigit addition and subtraction. and the field supportperson was taught and supervisedclosely by the projectdesigner.In Fuson (1986a).Childrenwho made errorswere interviewed. First. Fuson and Diane J. This study left unansweredseveral importantquestions that were addressedby the two studiesreportedhere. Study 1 reportedhere extendedthe sampleto second gradersof all achievementlevels and to first gradersof above-averageand averagemathematicsachievement. Briars
183
"* Childrenspend only 1 to 4 days on place-valueconcepts initially. "* A modificationof the usual algorithmis used for subtraction (see the methods section for Study 1). and those still making errorswere told to think about the blocks as they solved of the problems.Most of these childrenwere able to use a mental representation blocks to self-correcttheirwrittenerrors.Karen C. In the second study. In bothof the studiesreported here.Study 2 extended the sample to second gradersin a large urbanschool district. where distinctionsbetween named-valueand positionalbase-ten systems are discussed more fully and literaturepertainingto both adequateand inadequateconchildrenconstructfor multidigitnumbersare reviewed. communicatedin a fairly small amountof in-service time. the project designer conductedthe teacherin-service. ceptual structures Results of an earlier study with this learning/teaching approachwere reported in Fuson (1986a).the in-service teachingof learning/teaching the involved teachers.andthe reasoningbehindthem. project staff members did some of the teaching.The goal for both the age/achievementand the residentialextensions was not to manipulate these variousbackgroundvariablesin orderto determinetheir differentialeffects on performance. and socioeconomic level of the studentswho could benefit from the learning/teaching approach was not clear from the limited sample used in that initial study.andthis use of the blocks showed understandingof place-valueconcepts.the gradelevel.throughten-digit symbolic problems done withoutthe embodiment. These features. arediscussed in Fuson (in press a). and implementedby teacherswith little field support. extended the procedureslearned with the blocks to five.Distancing intervention: the classroom teaching. Second.It was simply to examine whether the effects of the learning/ teaching approach could be considered to generalize across a heterogeneous population. These seem to be crucialissues determining the feasibility of wide-scale use of the on three major aspects of this focused learning/teachingapproach. the project
. In that study second gradersand some first graderslearnedto add and subtract multidigitnumbersmuch more accuratelythanreportedfor usual Most of these childrensuccessfullyandindependently school instruction.

and the remainingchildrenwere groupedinto a high/averageand an average/lowclass. The literatureconcerningperformancein these areasby childrenreceiving usual instructionis briefly summarizedin the discussion of the resultsof each study in the results.184
Base-Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching
designer did not conduct the in-service sessions nor supervise the field support persons.The amountof in-servicetime was fairly small for both studies: a 1-hour overview of the learning/teaching approachin the first study and one or two 2V2hourin-servicesessions in the second study.but high/averageclass hadreceived additionmultidigitinstruction this class was retainedin the presentstudy in orderto study subtraction learning for all childrenand additionlearningfor the new children. orderto providea context within which to interpret STUDY1 Method Subjects Childrenfrom two schools in a small city on the northernborderof Chicago served as subjects.and averageIn the otherschool therewere only enough second achieving classes participated. average. being able to add and subtractmultidigitnumbersof several places.children these schools dependingupon recommendations were moved to a differentroom at any time a teacherthoughtthat a move should be made. one each of low. understanding place-valueconcepts. Many of the childrenin the as firstgraders.and high mathachievement.The high-achievingfirstin the study. Teachers grouped children by mathematicsachievement in of the previousteacher.Field supportwas providedin the first study by two teachers in each school who had taught the learning/teachingapproachin the first year.Many of the as childrenin the high-achievingclass hadreceivedadditionmultidigitinstruction first gradersin the studyreportedin Fuson (1986a). graders to form two classes. one each of low. 2.In the second study. In each school there were sufficientfirst gradersfor threemathclasses. so only the low. including subtraction problemswith zeros in the top number. average.The teachgradeclasses from both schools were asked to participate first gradersin both schools askedlaterin the year to ers of the average-achieving and were allowed to do so.All eight classes (N =
.threeelementary(K-8) mathematics for the 132 second-grade teachsupervisorswere availableto providefield support ers targetedfor the learning/teachingapproach. The five lowest achieving second graders were groupedwith a low-achieving first-gradeclass.but these supervisors also had many otherduties. The results of the two studies reportedhere are analyzed with respect to three approach: goals of the learning/teaching andjustifying procedures 1. In one school therewere threesecond-grade participate mathclasses. 3. and high math achievement. understanding multidigitadditionand subtraction with named-value/base-ten concepts.

tens. A writtenproblemwas (see Figure 2). they were to rely on the two teachersin their school who had taughtthe materialsbefore. and the result recordedwith digit cardsandon individualworksheets. ten of the smaller pieces were traded for one of the next larger pieces.. The first phase of instruction focused on explorationof the relationships betweenthe differentblocks andon use of the blocks words (little cubes.Both the consistent one-for-ten and ten-for-one trades between adjacentplaces and the nonadjacent trades(one-for-hundred and one-for-thousand) were discussed and demonstrated. 1986a). Each class had at least one set of base-tenblocks. These activities were accompanied by much verbalizationof the block words.g. hundreds. If the sum was nine or less.andnumeralswrittenon children'sworksheets. Fuson & Willis. it was recordedwith the digit cards.The otherteacherswere given a brief overview of the instruction. Additionand subtraction with the blocks were done on a large cardboard calcusheet Addition was consideredfirst. or names chosen by children) and English words (ones. and 5 were selected and were put down in order to the right of the blocks). and recordingwith writtenmarkswas done aftereach action with the blocks. fourcardscontainingthe numerals 3.. They have been found to be efficient and accurateenough for use in the multidigitalgorithms (Fuson. 2. and index cards each containingone numeralwere used to make the baseten versionof the numberbeside the blocks (e. Each child also recordedeach step on his or her own worksheet. 1986b.lesson plans. big cubes.g.If the sum was over nine. Fuson & Secada. 7. Then the blocks were used to make differentthree. lating given.and tests. longs. Instruction All childrenfirst learnedto find sums and differencesto 18 by countingon and counting up with one-handed finger patterns (see Fuson.thousands).were readby base-ten words (e. Much verbalizationof all three sets of words accompaniedall additionand subtraction.and three second-gradeclasses (N = 169) participated instruction. Briars
185
in the additioninstruction. 1988). "threeseven two five"). and the base-ten words. The blocks in a given column were addedtogether(pulleddown) into the bottomrow. A researchproject assistant also visited the schools weekly to check on teachingprogress. 1986. studentworksheets. These cards. The necessity of trading
. These countingprocedurescould be used for any additionand subtractionfacts childrendid not know. For questionsand furtherhelp.KarenC. 1987. Blocks for the top number were placed in the top row of the calculating sheet. the English words. Fuson and Diane J. and then blocks for the bottomnumberwere placed in the second row (see Figure 2).g. 3725). 1988b.. 75) received the subtraction Teachers in the multidigitinstrucFourteachers(two from each school) had participated tion in the Fuson (1986a) study. flats.and four-digitnumbers(e. beginning on the right. Addition was done column by column.

A simplificationof the usual algorithmwas also used. Childrenfirst checked each column of the top numberto be sure thatit was largerthanthe bottomnumber in that column.The chilsubtraction of subtractionavailable (as takedren in this study had multiple interpretations and see away.S. a one-for-ten trade (borrow. comparison. regrouping)was made from the column on the left.Fuson& Willis. Both the tradthaneach bottomnumber. 1988b.arose from more (in subtraction) the size of the blocks: ten of the blocks in any columnwereequivalentto one block in the column to the left. right-to-leftapproach. 1988).and the idea of tradingto get or tradingwhen you had too many (in addition). and the withineach value can be phrasedin differentways in words. within values as "Seven plus We suggested thatteachersverbalizethe subtraction how many to make twelve?" or "Twelve minus seven is how many?"(because these fit children'suse of counting up to find these differencesbetterthan using and thatthey separatethe blocks for the top numberinto the words "take-away") and the leftover blocks (the those thatmatch the bottomnumber(the subtrahend) move then the difference and difference) nonmatchingblocks to the bottom row as the answer. Calculatingboardwith an additionproblem. making a bigger number).
was raisedby showing what happenswith the digit cards if a two-digit numberis writtenin any column (the other digit cards get moved over to the left. but teachers usually This trade-first modeled the typical U. Multidigit subtractioncan be shown in various ways with the blocks. If a top digit was not as large.subtraction ing and the subtractingcan be done from either direction. 1986b. algorithmreduces
.The fairness of the ten/one trades. equalize. Fuson.186
Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching Approach
Thousands
Hundreds
Tens
Ones
T
D
3725
D000D
H Hi
1647
000
Figure 2. After all the necessarytrading had been done to the top numberso thateach top numberwas as large as or larger was done columnby column.

Teachershad to meet district goals as well as teaching these extra topics.The lesson plans describedhow attentioncould be directedwithin the learning/teaching approachto facilitatethe learningof these concepts.and choosing the largerof two multidigitnumbers). In some classes teachers also had to cover considerablegroundbefore the multidigitwork could begin (e.doing the same with tradesrequired. Thereforedifferentclasses com-
. Othersdivided their class into small groups and either worked with groups simultaneously or serially while the other groups worked on other topics. The initial introduction/addition unit took from 3 to 6 weeks. In the formercase. Each meaningful addition and place-value concept took abouta day. Briars
187
used in the common algorithm the difficult alternationof tradingand subtracting and thus eliminatesthe need for childrento switch repeatedlyfroma named-value representationfor trading to a unitary representationfor subtracting(Fuson & Kwon. adding 3 two-digit numbersrequiringa trade of 2) and place value (translating frommixed orderwordsto numeralsandvice versawith no trades.These topics and the focused on teachingadditionand subtraction multidigit topics went far beyond the districtgoals. and the subtractionunit took from 2 to 4 weeks. learning about single-digit sums and differences to 18). childrenhad difficultyrelating the four columns of blocks to the fourcolumns of writtenmarks.Wheneverchildrensaid they understoodthe written-marksprocedure and did not need the blocks any more. In the low second-gradeclass and first-grade classes. In all cases all childrenhad worksheets. Work on subtractionwas followed by very short units focusing on aspects of meaningful addition (alignment of problems with different numbers of digits.Therefore. having childrenparticipate the blocks and the index cards.in these classes two-digit problems were done first. and then three. they were allowed to go to their seats to work on worksheets containing three. All of these classes were also participating in an instructional researchproject wordproblems. childrenwho had learned the blocks procedurethe year before or older childrenshown how to use the blocks worked with each group initially to ensure that the blocks and written-marks procedures were correctand that childrenin the group were understanding the relationships involved.g.and all recordedeach problem as it was workedwith the blocks. Childrenin the average and high-achieving second-gradeclasses were able to do three-andfour-digitadditionand subtraction problemswith the blocks initially. Teachersorganizedtheirclassroomsin differentways for this instruction. The initial sustainedfocus on making all the top columns larger also helps to avoid the common errorof subtracting the top numberfrom the bottom numberwhen the top numberis smaller.Some in solving problemswith workedwith the whole class.and four-digit problems were done with the blocks and writtenmarks.KarenC.and four-digitproblems. Fuson and Diane J. The time necessary to complete each unit varied considerably from class to class. in press). Worksheetswith largerproblems (up to eight digits) were availablefor childrenwho wished to try them.Their procedurewas checked by someone before they were allowed to leave the blocks..

The work on meaningful addition and place-value concepts was completed only by the high.Parallelsubtraction SubtractionTest.All otherclasses completed the generalizationof the addition algorithmto problems with as many as seven and the digits. These same two tests were also given as posttests. children were given 3 minutes for the Timed Test because subtraction had been slower than additionin the earlier Subtraction subtraction test Subtraction A fourth Test)consistedof four problems (Zeros study. This procedurewas adoptedbecause scoring each problemonly as corrector incorrectdoes not differentiatea solution in which all columns but one are correct from a solution in which a child demonstrated no notion of multidigitadditionor subtraction. and 1 seven-digit problem. one.3 four-digit.each tests (TimedSubtraction Test. childrenworkedon these problemsfor 2 minutes. The high and averagesecond-gradeclasses completedsubtraction.with 2 two-digit. All childrenwere given two addition pretests. presubtraction seemingly
. 3 six-digit. numbers. with zeros in the top number: 1 two-digit. The Ten-DigitAddition Test was a single ten-digitproblem(6385740918 + 8557586736). Each test was then scoredto permita finer evaluationof performance. two. An analysisof the kinds of errorswas made on the ten-digitproblem.All problemsrequired tradingin one or more places (the numberof tradesrangedfrom one to five). 1 five-digit. Preaddition/presubtraction random errorsalso included adding.The lower achievingand youngerclasses were also given an Untimed AdditionMinitest of four problems(2 two-digit and 2 three-digitproblems. The tests for each child were first evaluated to determine whether the child showed any evidence of correcttrading.and three-placenumbers. Scoring was based on each digit in the answer: one point was given for each correctdigit. respectively. The low-achieving second-gradeclass and one average first-gradeclass only completed addition of two.and 1 four-digitproblem with one. 2 three-digit. Measuresof Skill and Understanding Additionand subtractioncalculation tests. average/low second-gradeclass completed ordinarysubtractionand began work on problems with zeros in the minuend. 2 three-digit.The errors identifiedin Fuson (1986a) were classified into fourcategoriesreflectingincreasas follows: ing amountsof knowledge aboutmultidigitadditionor subtraction error:Columns were left blank or filled in with 1.and average-achieving second-gradeclasses.The teacherof the otheraveragefirst-gradeclass only taughtmultidigitadditionto 10 of the 24 childrenin her class. but she did complete the generalization of the algorithmpast four places with the participating children.The TimedAdditionTest contained 12 problems.two correctly tradedcolumns were requiredfor the child to be judged as showing some indicationof trading.188
Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching Approach
pleted different topics.Ten-Digit requiringone trade). Untimed SubtractionMinitest) were made by using inverse problems from the addition tests. and threezeros. All problems were writtenaligned in verticalform.

Coder agreementwas 97%. 1 than fromthe traded-to was subtracted column. 6 hundreds.1 ten.g. Column addition/subtractionerror: Addition/subtractionproblems were approachedcolumn by column: In additionthe sum of each column was written below that column even when the sum was a two-digit number(e.more thanone tradewas made from a given column. Fuson and Diane J.. hadone numeral/word pairthatexceeded 10 andthushadto be tradedto the left in the formeritems or to the rightin the latteritems to make the correctanswer. and4 ones) or to fill in a numeralblankwhen the threeor four-digitnumeralwas given with the numeral/word named-valuecombination hundreds.28 = 12). 28 + 36 = from the 514).in subtractionproblems these errors included the following: the left column was not reduced by one even though a trade was recorded in the right column.Karen C.the tradewas subtracted from ratherthan added to the top number. The tions given in mixed order(e. Two coders coded all errors. in subtractionthe smallernumberin each column was subtracted largernumber(e. 36 . and children makingtradingerrorsthatwere incorrectin only one columncould get digit scores ranging between 36% (on the Ten-Digit Tests) and 60% (on the Untimed Minitests). 16 hundreds. Place-value and meaningfulmultidigitaddition writtentests.14 tens.or four-digitnumeralfor numeral/word named-valuecombina4 tens.in additionproblemsthese errorsincludedthe following: the tradewas not writtenor addedin anywhere. 3. Three aspects of and two aspectsof meaningfulmultidigitadditionwere place-valueunderstanding assessed throughwrittentests. Briars
189
2. and 3 ones). 1 was subtracted right. 5 thousands.a tradewas made when the sum was not over 9. the tens digit ratherthan the ones digit was traded. borrow). 2 thoufor numeral/word named-valuecombinationsgiven in standard sands.childrenmaking errorscould get 20% correctdigit scores consistent column addition/subtraction on both Untimed Minitests and 9% on the additionTen-Digit Test... Fact error: Fact errorsinvolved correcttradingbut incorrectadding or subtractingin a column.g.g.these items were modeled after those in Underhill (1984). Tradingerror: Tradingerrorsinvolved some partiallysuccessful attemptto trade(carry. a trade was made even though the top numberwas alreadylarger. Test requireda child to write a three-or four-digitnumeral TradedWord/Numeral order(e..g.a tradewas made but ignoredwhen thatcolumn was added(this errormight have been a fact errorsuch errorswere counted as both tradeand fact errors). 4. The Mixed Wordsto NumeralsTestrequireda child to write a three. Because not every column in every problemrequireda trade.and 7 ones).g.The five pairsof numberswere all misleadingin thatall digits in
. 2643 is 2 thousands. All of these items (e..the rightcolumnreceived 11 rather from a left column even thoughno tradewas recordedto the 10. The Choose the Larger NumberTestrequireda child to choose the largerof a pairof three-throughsevendigit numbersby circling the largernumberand by insertinga < or > between the pairof numbers.

and Place Value Individual interviews were carried out to assess children's understandingof addition. correctly paralleled problems. A thirdshowed the common errorof column subtraction-subtractingthe smallerfromthe largernumbereven when the smallernumberis on the top.andthe subtraction 24 consisted of the second in the addition interview graders sample. they were asked why it was right or wrong.and test means were convertedto percentagesfor ease of comprehensionof the test results.for 8 + 6 writing 14 in the ones columnand (2) ignoringthe tens digit of a two-digit sum andjust writingthe ones digit.Intersample views were conductedindividuallyin a roomoutsidethe classroom. for example. The interviewerwrote down verbatimthe child's responsesand any interviewer prompts. each written on a separateindex card. Five subtraction problemswere the solved Two were solved and addition correctly given. Eight children from one class at each achievementlevel were randomlyselected to be interviewed(the average-achievTherefore. One was solved correctly.Two additionproblemswere solved correctly: a two-digitproblemwith a tradefromthe ones to the tens anda four-digitproblemwith a tradefromthe hundreds to the thousands. ing first graderswere fromthe class in which all childrenparticipated).except that differentnumberswere used. Childrenwere told thatthey would be shown problemsthat somebody else had solved andthatsome problemswere correctandsome were wrong. children were told to write the problem so that it could be added easily. subtraction.The Trading2 Insteadof 1 Testconsistedof problemswith threeaddendsthatrequired a tradeof 2 tens ratherthan 1 ten because the sum in the ones column exceeded 20.Childrenwere randomlyassigned to one of two differentorders of problems. interview the additioninterviewsamplecontained40 children.andthe otherbeganwith
. the differentnumbersof digits were chosen to maximize the frequenterrorof aligningsuchproblemson the left rather thanon the right.and place value. Understanding ofAddition.and the other showed 1 hundredtradedfor 10 ones.They were then shown an index card with a problemwrittenon it and asked if that problemwas right or wrong. Two three-digit problemswith two zeros in the top numberwere given. Each problem solution was written in a color different from the color of the original problem.After a judgmentwas made.190
Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching Approach
the smaller numberexcept one were equal to or greaterthan the corresponding digits in the larger number. in these problems). This tested a combinationof thatone addedand thereplace value and additionunderstanding-understanding fore aligned like places. Subtraction. Each test item was markedas corrector incorrect.One sequencebeganwith a correctproblem.These tests hadbetween two and six items.The Alignment Test presented horizontally-written problems whose addendshad differentnumbersof digits.The two most common additionerrorsbefore instructionwere used: (1) column addition.Two additionproblemswere solved incorrectly. the first item had a sum of 21 to maximize the possibility that childrenwould than rotelytradethe 1 as they hadbeen doing for problemswith two addendsrather tradingthe numberof tens (2.Childrenwere shown solved multidigit problems.

of However.and (c) explaining the double trading over two top zeros. If a child changed his or her answer. The ratersagreed on 100%of these classifications.. (b) identifying the traded 1 as a ten or as a hundred. 156 correctlytradedon a four-digitor largerproblem. Briars
191
an incorrectproblem. All of these aspects were evaluatedfor tens and for hundreds. p < . the tradeof 1 hundredfor 10 tens andthe tradeof 1 ten for 10 ones. whereason the posttests 160 of the 169 childrenshowed such evidence. Of the 13 childrenfailing to demonstrate correcttradingor doing so only for two.001 in all cases. Of these 160 children. a very large and statistically significant change (McNemar'stest chi-square= 151.Coderagreement was 95%. The interviewrecordswere classified by the interviewerandone of the authors.and (b) identifyingthe traded1 as a ten or as a hundred.0001). a child had to use the word "ten"or "hundred" to identify a numeralcorrectly sometime during an explanation. this was used when a child failed to give any answer to other prompts. Fuson and Diane J. questions about the traded 1 ("What'sthe one?" or "One what?")and a question about the 8 tens in the four-digitadditionproblem ("Eight what?"). The subtraction interviewswere coded for threeaspects of subtraction and place value understanding:(a) explainingthe writtenprocedureas trading1 ten for 10 ones or I hundredfor 10 tens. needed prompts were not always given. The interviews were coded for place-value understandingof the tens or hundredsvalues of writtennumeralswithin an explanation of additionor subtraction. due to the complexity of the interviewand the fact thatthe attributes the responses to be coded were finalized after the interviews were completed. Results AdditionMultidigitComputation On the pretestsonly 9 of the 169 childrenshowed any indicationof correcttrading. the data may underestimate children'sknowledge. Children'sexplanationsdid not always spontaneouslycover all of the A series of promptswas used to tryto ascertainsuch coded aspectsof the interview. the last assignmentwas coded.The more difficult problems (the four-digitadditionproblem and the subtractionproblems with zeros) were given in the last half of the interview. These included knowledge.The additioninterviewswere coded for two aspects of additionand place-valueunderstanding: (a) explaining the writtenprocedureas trading 10 ones for 1 ten or 10 tens for 1 hundred.For (a) a child had to explain explicitly the tradingor say that the ten came from the 13 ones or the hundredcame fromthe 16 tens.e.The most explicit promptwas to ask a child to think about the blocks. p < . i. Thus. The classificationof a problemas corrector incorrectwas evaluatedfirst. Pairedt-test analyses of pretestposttest differences on the digit scores for each test for each class separatelyrevealed significantimprovement for every test for every class.KarenC.
.7 were in the average-achieving first-gradeclass and 5 were in the low-achieving second-gradeclass. to receive credit.or three-digitproblems.

Few of the andcolumnadditionerrorswere madeon the posttest. because their Untimed Minitest scores were well above those obtainableby carryingout column errors (75% and 69% comparedto 20% for column errors). There primitivepreaddition was a reductionin the tradingerrorsand no increase in the fact errorsin spite of the fact thatalmostall childrenwere addingandtradingon almost all problemson the posttest.
The errorsmade on the Ten-Digit pretests and posttests are given in Table 2. Teachersreportedthatchildren were enthusiasticabout the multidigitinstructionand enjoyed solving large second gradersknew most of their problemsandthatmanyof the higher-achieving additionfacts or used thinkingstrategiesto find sums they did not know andmost to solve sums they of the otherchildrencountedon with one-handed fingerpatterns did not know. ng means the test was not given.192
Base-Ten Blocks Learning/Teaching Approach
Posttestdigit scores are shown in Table 1. a The low-achieving second-gradeclass only completed 2. These analyses show a large reductionin the numberof errorsmade. Even the latter two classes demonstratedsome learning. Percentageof correctdigits in the answer is out of all digits in the Untimed Minitestand Ten-Digit Test and out of the columns attemptedby a given child in the Timed Test. N = 75 for the SubtractionTest).
.and 3-digit addition.
Table 1 AdditionComputation Posttest Digit Score Meansfor Each Class and AchievementLevel in Study1 level Grade/achievement Tests n Percentageof correct digits in answers UntimedMinitest Ten-Digit Test Timed Test Mean numberof correct digits completedin 2 minuteson Timed Test 2 High/av 29 2 Av 23 2 Av/low 21 2 Low 14 75 58 a 74 15 1 High 26 92 88 92 17 1 High 25 98 91 94 24 1 Av 10 92 93 91 12 1 Av 21 69 ng ng ng
ng 99 98 28
ng 93 91 25
ng 90 94 26
Note.
Table 2 Numberand Kinds of Pretest and Posttest Additionand SubtractionErrors in Study1 Preaddition/ presubtraction Tests AdditionTen-Digit Test Subtraction Ten-Digit Test Pre 527 135 Post 28 4 Column add/sub Pre 837 650 Post 18 14 Trading error Pre 109 0 Post 79 96 Fact error Pre 57 8 Post 45 22
Note. These indicateexcellent performance for all classes except the low-achieving second-gradeclass and the averagefirstgrade class in which all childrenparticipatedin the learning/teachingapproach. There were a possible 1859 errorsin additionand 825 errorsin subtractioncalculatedby multiplyingthe numberof digits in the answer (11) by the numberof subjects (N = 169 for the Addition Test.

Almost all childrentakingthese tests were misled by
.Substantialnumbersof tradingerrorswere made on the posttest. Five of these 72 childrendemonstratedsuch tradingfor two. Mean digit scores for each test for each class are given in Table 3.0001). a very large and statistically significant change (McNemar's test chi-square= 70. Few fact errorswere made on the posttest.but most posttesttradingwas correct(over 80%of the tradesinvolved no errorin either column). respectively). only half as many fact errorsas were made in addition. Ten-Digit Test. Briars
193
SubtractionMultidigitComputation On the pretests 2 of the 75 children participatingin the subtractionlearning/ teaching approachshowed some evidence of trading.Teachersreportedthat some children knew subtraction facts or used thinkingstrategiesto determinedifficultdifferences but that most counted up with one-handedfinger patternsto determinefacts they did not know.Scoresfor the average and average/low classes on the Ten-DigitTest and on the Zeros Test revealed weaker performancethat was nevertheless above the level of consistent tradingerrors(36% and 33%.001 in all cases. p < .or three-digitproblemsbut not for largerproblems. Percentageof correctdigits in the answeris out of all digits in the Untimed Minitest. The Zeros Test for the Av/low class is in parenthesesbecause this class only began work on zero problems. and Zeros Test and out of the columns attemptedin the Timed Test. Pairedt-testanalysesof pretest-posttest differenceson the digit scores for each test for each class separatelyrevealedsignificantimprovementfor every test for every class. Place-Valueand MeaningfulMultidigitAdditionWrittenTests Results of the writtentest measures of place-value and meaningfulmultidigit additionaregiven in Table4.
The erroranalysespresentedin Table2 indicatean almost completeelimination on the posttest of the large numberof presubtraction and column subtractionerrors made on the pretest. ng means the test was not given.
Table 3 SubtractionComputation Posttest Class Means by Achievement Level in Study1 Achievementlevel Tests n Percentageof correctdigits in answers Untimed Minitest Ten-Digit Test Timed Test Zeros Test Mean numberof correctdigits completed in 3 minutes on Timed Test High/av 29 ng 95 95 92 22 Av 23 89 72 84 78 15 Av/low 23 87 75 84 (49) 16
Note. FusonandDianeJ. Performance by the high/averageclass was excellent on all tests. and for the othertwo classes performancewas good on the TimedTest andthe UntimedMinitest.Karen C. p < .on the posttests72 of the 75 children showed such evidence.

these explanations were spontaneous without any prompts.194
Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching Approach
these items on the pretest(except for the Circle the LargerNumberTest).Forthe hundreds conceptspromptswere of the responses.
Table 4 Percentage Correcton Place-Value and MeaningfulAdditionWrittenTest in Study1 level Grade/achievement 2 High/av Tests Mixed Wordsto NumeralsTest Test TradedWord/Numeral Choose the LargerNumberTest Circle the largernumber Insert> and < symbols in the numberpairs AlignmentTest Trading2 Insteadof 1 Test Pre Place-valuetests 3 2 50 0 Post 98 90 96 96 100 100 Pre 8 3 34 44 5 12 2 Av Post 83 72 84 98 100 73
Meaningfuladditiontests 0 0
Note.indicatingthat the childrenwere not just repeatingmemorized verbalexplanationsfor correctproblems. children in both classes showed very considerablegains on the placevalue tests. but they could not simultaneouslyfit this generalview of tradingwithin the named-valueplaces to name the new value
. and most children traded2 when they had 20-some ones or tens.Addition. all children correctly aligned problems.94% correctlyclassified the subtraction problems with no zeros.but this seemed to stem as much requiredfor aboutthree-fourths from the fact thatonly a correctproblemwas given for the hundredtradeas from hundredsbeing more difficult. and most of these identified that 1 as coming from the "8 tens plus 8 tens is 16 tens.
Understanding of Place-Value.Similaridentification of a hundredsnumeralwas done by 92% of the second gradersbut by only 50%of the first graders. On the posttest." Thus. and the Class 2 Av pretestswere given midyear.The problems with errorswere muchmoreeffective thanwere correctproblemsin eliciting spontaneous explanations.Results of the interviewmeasuresare given in Table5. Childrenin the second-gradeaverage/low-achieving class and especially in the average-achievingfirst-gradeclass showed more tradethan did the childrenin the other limited understanding of the ten/hundred threeclasses.and Subtraction Every interviewedchild correctlyclassified all four additionproblemsas having been solved correctlyor incorrectly. Almost every child explainedthe ten-for-onestradingand of three-fourths identifiedthe traded1 as a ten for both additionand subtraction. Every child but one identifieda numeral in the tens place as x tens at least once duringtheirexplanations. Most childrenfailing to identifythe traded1 as a hundredidentified it as a ten.to tradethe tens digit from any two-digit sum. and 94% of the children completing instructionon the subtraction problemswith zeros classified such problemscorrectly. The Class 2 High/av pretestswere given early in the year. they had learneda general aspect of multidigittrading.

1988) and Ross (1986. 1988). 1983. These children also showed competence far above that usually demonstratedby third gradersin verbally labelling tens and hundredsplaces. Labinowicz. in instruction. Ross. Cauley.Kamii & Joseph.KarenC.Percentages about onlyafter theywereprompted
of the traded 1.1981). 1989) reportedthat on tasks most second gradersandmanythirdandfourthgraders digit correspondence
. Kamii & Joseph.in aligning unevenproblemson the rightratherthanon the left. 1987. Kamii (1985.and Subtraction in Studyi level Grade/achievement 2 Hi/av Tests Identifythe tens and hundreds values of writtennumerals 2 Av 2 Av/lo 1 Hi 1 Av
Ten Hun Ten Hun Ten Hun Ten Hun Ten Hun Place-value understanding 100 100 100 100 100 (13) 75 100 75 88 (25) 25
Addition and place-valueunderstanding 100 88 100 100 88 50 Explain writtenprocedureas (13) (25) (50) trading10 ones for 1 ten or 10 tens for 1 hundred 100 88 100 88 100 63 Identifythe traded 1 as a ten or a hundred (38) (25) (38) Subtraction and place-value understanding 100 100 100 100 100 75 Explain writtenprocedureas (13) trading 1 ten for 10 ones or 1 hundredfor 10 tens 100 100 100 100 100 75 Identifythe traded 1 as a ten or a hundred 88 38 38 Explain the double tradingover 100 100 75 two top zeros: hundreds to tens and tens to ones
blocks. The errorthat is so common in multidigitsubtraction subtracting-smaller-from-larger was almost completely eliminated. and in identifyingthe traded 1 in additionand subtraction as a ten or as a hundred rather than as a one (cf. 1985. Tougher. in showing the quantitative meaning of tens and ones. Briars
195
Table 5 Percentage of StudentsDemonstratingUnderstandingof Place Value. 1988.Addition. 1989. Not a single interviewedchild identifiedthe traded1 as a one.Resnick. Resnick and Omanson. sharpcontrastto childrenreceiving traditional Discussion The second gradersandhigh-abilityfirstgradersshowedmultidigitadditionand above thatshown thatwas very considerably subtraction computation performance by third graders receiving traditionalinstruction (cf. 1986.
100 100
100 88 (13) (13) 100 88 (13) (25) ng ng ng ng ng ng
13 13
ng ng ng
ng ng ng
in parentheses to think arechildren whoresponded the Note. Ginsburg. 1988. Kouba et al. in changing words to numeralsand vice versa even when these were given in mixed orderor requiredtrading. 1985. Fuson and Diane J.1977. ng means the test was not given.in choosing the largernumber. Kamii..

A 2V2-hour was offered to using base-ten blocks to teach multidigitadditionand subtraction in This in-service session was all second-gradeteachers August. In an attempt to provide some information on this issue. on Ross task. half the children from each achievement-levelgroupingwithin each class were randomlychosen to be individually interviewed(n = 22). in the written to on the blocks actions steps multidigitadditionand subtraction ing session focusing more intensely In a procedures. second gradersusing the base-ten blocks showed performance considerablyabove thatordinarilyshown by second gradersreceiving traditional instruction.Thus. but reviewersraisedthe questionof whetherchildrenin the on these tasks. voluntary.The workshopwent throughthe teacherplans for on using the blocks andlinkthe learning/teaching focusing particularly approach.overall. Thus. November. and 3 children first showed one chip but showed ten chips when asked to "look at the places" in 16 (tens and ones were not mentioned). On the Kamii task (showing with chips what the 6 and the 1 in 16 mean).performance these tasks also. more than half of these children had tens andones availableas theirfirst meaningfor a two-digitnumeraland four others had it readilyavailableas a second choice. follow-up 2V2-hour new trade-first the on subtraction algorithm)was given to these teach(including on addition and subtractionwas given for teacha session both and 2V2-hour ers. 12 children immediately showed ten chips as the meaning of the 1. These tasks were not available at the time this studywas carriedout.teachers were paid salary to attend. they say thatthe 3 means the threegroupsand the 1 means the one left-over object). STUDY2 Method Subjectsand Teachers Potentialsubjects were all second gradersin the 132 second-gradeclassrooms in-service trainingsession on in the PittsburghPublic School system. while four more first showed their unitarymeaningbut showed a tens and ones meaning when a multidigitcontext was elicited for them.Not a single child showeda groupingface-valuemeaningon the was the same as performance on the Kamii task. another4 first showed one chip but showed ten chips when asked to show with the chips "what else could this part(the 1) mean?"anotherchild showed ten chips when given the task again after working the four-digitsubtractionproblem.At that place-valueunderstanding study would have demonstrated time two teacherswere still carryingout reasonablefacsimiles of the instruction with their above-averageand average-achievingsecond-gradeclasses.196
Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching Approach
show no understanding instructional thatthe tens digit means receiving traditional ten things (these childrenshow one chip-rather than ten chips-to demonstrate what the 1 in 16 means). They were given these two tasks and a subtraction problemwith zeros in the top number.
. or they are misled by nontengroupingsand show only a as threegroupsof four obgroupingface-value meaning (for 13 objects arranged jects and one left-over object. 91% of the interviewedchildrenshowed that the 1 meantten objects.

The number of teachers and children who in variousaspects of the studyarediscussed in the final section of the participated methods section. thoughthey also had many otherduties concerningteachersat other grade levels. The few teacherswith systematicgradingerrorshad their scores corrected. The supervisorsencouragedteachersto try the approach. metric version) was availablein each school.One class set of base-tenblocks (the EducationalTeachingAids neutralcolored blocks.Three elementarymathematicssupervisorswere available as questionsarose. two boys and two girls.Many teachers startedteaching multidigitadditionand subtraction somewhatlate in the yearandexpresseddoubtsthatthey would be able to finish all of the units. In orderto increase the numberof teachersfinishing at least the additionand subtraction work. Teachers graded all tests according to written directions.All tests meaningful-addition were given as pretestsat the beginning of the year. They returnedto the central district office the pretests accompaniedby a class list containingpretest scores. Instruction Teacherlesson plans and a class set of studentworksheetsin individualstudent booklets (both as describedin Study 1) were sent to each second-gradeteacherin the district..For both the pretestsand the posttests. were randomly selected and gradedby researchstaff membersin orderto check the teachergrading.The same tests were given as posttests as each phase of the learning/teachingapproachwas finished (e. participation was voluntary. Most second-gradeteachers(91%)attendedat least one of these sessions. At the in-service sessions some teachersexpressed a preferencefor using the blocks to show subtractionas take-awayinstead of as comparisonbecause the take-awaymethod fitted bettertheir conception of subtractionas takeaway. Fuson and Diane J.the tests of four childrenin each classroom.who is experiencedin using the base-ten blocks to teach the multidigit algorithms. the additioncalculationtests were given at the completion of the additionteaching).
.Teacherswereallowed to use take-awayif they wished: The top number(the minuend) was made with blocks and blocks were taken away for the bottom number. These sessions were given by the second author. Posttestsaccompaniedby a class list with posttest scores were returned to the centraloffice as teachersgave them.A math supervisorwho had no previous experience with the base-tenblocks gave another2?-hour in-servicesession in Decemberfor those not able to attendearliersessions.but because the goals went considerablybeyond the districtsecond-gradegoals. The addition and subtractioncalculation tests and the place-value and writtentests used in Study 1 were used in this study.g. Testing Tests.KarenC.the supervisorssuggestednot covering the addition and place-value units but finishing the subtractionwork at meaningful least up to the problems with zeros. Teacherswere urged to use the base-ten blocks and lesson plans to teach the multidigitalgorithms. Briars
197
ers who had not attendedthe August session.

This partialreturnraised the obvious questionof whetherthe childrenfor whom posttests were returneddifferedfrom the childrenwithoutreturned posttests. Only part of the potential sample of classrooms completed the work with the the posttests. respectively. the posttest sample childrenwere.subtraction returned calculation.andplace-value/meaningful additionposttests was 42. Criterionscores were adoptedfor the additionand subtraction UntimedMinitests.initially a bit worse at multi-
.The additioncalculationpretestswere the focus of the difference analyses because all other pretests showed floor effects. The numberof teachers who additioncalculation. Therewere no significantdifferencesbetween these groups on any tests.The numberof childrenwith andreturned learning/teaching approach returnedposttests is given for each test in Table 6. Erroranalyses were carriedout on four Ten-DigitTests drawnat randomfrom each of 30 classroomsrandomlyselected for each test and time (pretest. 18.posttest).For the subtraction ZerosTest. These were based on the digit scores describedfor Study 1.These teacherscame from 18.a criterionscore of 9 (of the 12 digits correct)was selectedbecausethis scoremeantthatthe child demonstrated correcttradingfor at least two of the three zero aspects tested. and 16.A score of 8 requireda child to make at least two correcttradeswith no fact errorson the UntimedMinitestsand four correcttradeswith no fact errors on the Ten-DigitTests.The percentage of childrenwith pretestscores on the UntimedMinitestat or above criterionwas a bit higherfor the childrenwith no postteststhanfor those with posttests.the mean digit scores on the UntimedMinitestand the Timed Test were aboutthe same for both groups. coder agreementwas 96%.the additionand subtraction Ten-Digit Tests. Errorswere classified into the four categories used in Study 1. The Pretest and Posttest Samples Of the 132 teachers.125 (95%)returned pretestsfor 2723 children.Across all of the tests the numberof completed pretests ranged between 2531 and 2378. 35.Pretestswere returnedfrom at least one classroom for every school in the district. if anything. and the subtractionZeros Test. To ascertainwhetherthe pretestsrepresentedthe whole sample of childrenwith one or more returnedpretests. Several aspects of the additionpretestsfor the childrenwith no returned posttests were comparedto pretestsfor the childrenwith returned posttests.198
Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching Approach
Criterionscores and errorclassification. The classification was done by the same two coders used in Study 1. respectively. and children with no posttests showed somewhat more advanced errorsthan did the childrenwith posttests (more of the formermade at least one or column additionerrors). and 9 different schools. The tradingcriterionscore was 8 or more for the additionand subtraction UntimedMinitestsandthe additionandsubtraction Ten-DigitTestsbecause a child makingtradingerrorsthatwere incorrectin only one column could obtain scores of 6 out of 10 on the UntimedMinitestsand 4 out of 11 on the TenDigit Tests. tradingerrorwhile moreof the lattermadepreaddition Thus.on each test the scores of children who had complete dataon all tests were comparedto scores of childrenwho hadone or moremissing scores on other tests.

one. Most (90%)of the posttestteacherscame from a school in which all the secondgrade teachersreturnedposttests. p < . and all children showed floor effects on the multidigitsubtraction calculationand place-valueand meaningfuladditionpretests. SubtractionMultidigitCalculationPerformance Hardlyany childrenmet the tradingcriteriaon the subtraction pretests(2%. respectively). McNemar's test of correlated proportions chi-square= 674 and 659.4 columns in 3 minutes. 1%.
. Teacherswithin a given school almost always returnedexactly the same posttests.4% on the Untimed Minitest. Both of these changes were significant. 70%. These changes were all significant.3 columns of multidigitproblemscorrectlyin 2 minutes. and 9%. and Zeros Test. Thus. and 0.while these percentagesfor the teacherswere 68%. These children showed the same large reduction in preaddition and column additionerrorsfrom the pretestto the posttestas shown by the childrenin Study 1 (see Table7). the performancedata to be reported come from all achievementlevels of second graders.thatis. Briars
199
digit addition calculation than the children not participating.The schools with all teachers participatingwere distributedacross the whole range of schools in the city with teachersdid respect to location. and zero sessions.Karen C. Childrensolved subtraction problems more slowly than addition problems.with digit scores on the threetests showing thatthey solved between 89% and 96% of the columns correctly(Table6).0001. ethnicity. The childrenwere quite accurate adders. One of these classes was also dropped from the subtractionsample for the same reason. 15%. solving a mean correct 18. Tradingerrorswere also reducedconsiderably. 487. McNemar's chi-square= 580.This shift for the Ten-Digit Test was from 5% on the pretest to 90% meeting criterion on the posttest.and socioeconomic level. and they solved a mean of 24. 486. Children obtained digit scores on the various tests ranging between 80%and90%correct(see Table6). nonparticipating Two classes from a magnet school were droppedfrom the additionsample because more than half the children were above criterionon the pretest. but 84%.even thoughalmost all childrenwere tradingon the posttest.Ten-DigitTest. both groupshad the same low level of initial knowledge. and 10% of the participatingteachers attended two. 23%. and 81%of the instructedchildrenmet the criterionon the respective posttests. p < . Participating teachersin theirrate of attendance not seem to differ much from nonparticipating at the in-service sessions: 76%.001. and on the posttest 96% of the childrenmet this criterion. respectively. FusonandDianeJ. Results AdditionMultidigitCalculationPerformance On the pretest 10%of the instructedsample met the criterionon the Untimed Minitest. indicating previous addition instruction.

Table 7
Numberand Kinds of Pretest and Posttest Additionand SubtractionErrors in Study2 Preaddition/ presubtraction Pre AdditionTen-Digit Test Subtraction Ten-Digit Test 341 282 Post 7 8 Column add/sub Pre 798 984 Post 3 26 Trading error Pre 79 6 Post 45 187 Fact error Pre 11 1 Post 83 58
thenumber of digitsin the foreachtestcalculated werea possible1320errors Note. recopied the problems horizontally. 67 + 1385 was writtenverticallyas 67 + 13 + 85).There bymultiplying of subjects answer (11)by thenumber (N = 120).. most childrenaligned the numberson the left.Ten-Digit Tests. on the AlignmentTest. For example. 38% ignoredthe words andwrote the numeralsin theirgiven orderand 39% left blanksor wrote seemingly random
.
The subtraction-error analyses indicateda substantialmovementfrom the preerrorsto the more advancedtradingand fact subtractionand column subtraction errors(see Table 7). Place-Valueand MeaningfulAdditionTests The pretestscores on most of the place-valueandmeaningfuladditiontests were very low.or treated each digit as a separate numberand formednew problems(e. On the test giving mixed orderwords. indicatingthatchildrenwere respondingto the misleadingnatureof the items. The %correctfor the additionand subtraction computationtests are the percentageof correctdigits out of the total digits in the UntimedMinitests.200
Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching Approach
Table 6 Posttests and the Place-Value Percentage Correcton the Additionand SubtractionComputation and MeaningfulAdditionPosttests in Study2 n Additioncomputationtests Untimed Minitest Ten-Digit Test Timed Test Subtraction computationtests Untimed Minitest Ten-Digit Test Timed Test Zeros Test Place-valuetests Mixed Wordsto NumeralsTest Test TradedWord/Numeral Choose the LargerNumberTest Circle the largernumber Insert> and < symbols in the numberpairs Meaningfuladditiontests AlignmentTest Trading2 Insteadof 1 Test 783 776 780 707 705 669 602 360 360 360 363 300 278 % Correct 96 89 92 90 80 85 85 88 53 67 65 85 80
Note.g. The percentagesof posttest errorsfalling within each error categoryare similarfor Study 1 and Study 2. and Zeros Test and out of the digits attemptedby a given child in the Timed Tests.

it is not clear how closely the work with the blocks followed the lesson plans. Childrenshowed more limited ability to Test. ten-digitproblem.Being able to solve seemed to empowerchildrenandmakethemfeel good aboutthemlargeproblems selves and about mathematics. Informalreportsto field supervisorsindicatedthat the school-baseddecisions to participate were sometimesinitiatedby the principaland sometimes by the teachers.with little differencebetween scores obtainedby circling the largernumberor inserting< or > between the numbers(67% and 65%). Fuson and Diane J. Thus.manychildrendid smaller-from-larger not completely mastersubtraction computationand continuedto make some tradon the and fact errors. Individualclass means on these tests rangedfrom lows of 59%to 66%to highs of 100%.the Mixed Wordsto Symbols Test.The teacherassignmentandtransfer policies of the districtmakeit unlikelythatthe best teachersare heavily concentratedin certainschools (i.indicatingsome pretestability to comparemultidigitnumbers.The partialparticipation by teachersdid not seem to bias the samplewith respectto initialknowledgeof the participating children.. no inferencescan be made aboutwhich features of the learning/teaching approachmight be crucial and whether any might be while those expendable. About a sixth of the childrendid get three of the five items correcton the Choose the LargerNumber Test and anothersixth got four or five items correct. andthe Trading2 Insteadof 1 Testwas good.e. ers. this skepticismmay have contributed to decisions not to use the approach. as was performance and the Choose the LargerNumberTest.rangingfrom means on the TradedWord/Numeral 3% to 88%. Children learned multidigit addition quite well.However. Class Test were extremely variable.Karen C.It is not clear why teachersin some schools participated in other schools did not. rangingfrom 80%to 88%(see Table 6). with an overall mean performanceof 53% of the items correct.Both additionand subtracing especially tion performancewas considerablyabove that ordinarilyreportedfor thirdgradon the AlignmentTest.the AlignmentTest. Because systematic classroom observationswere not made. Briars
201
responses. thoughthey still made some additionfact errorsandoccasionaltradingerrors.Performanceon the Choose the LargerNumberTest improvedto moderatelevels of accuracy. only 23% showed even any partialknowledge.The subtraction test scores and erroranalyses indicatedthatmost childrencould trade that few continued to make the presubtractionand the subtractand correctly errorsso commonon the pretests. Performance on the posttestMixed Wordsto Symbols Test.The field supervisorsreportedthat some teachersexpressed skepticismthat second graderscould learnmaterialso much above grade level even though the success of the approachwith the children in Study 1 was discussed in the in-service sessions. only in the participating
. Discussion Informalteacherreportsvia the supervisors and direct communicationto the districtmathematicsdirectorindicatedconsiderableenthusiasmandenjoymentof the learning/teaching approachby both teachersand children. generalize tradingto the new TradedWord/Numeral There were obvious limitations to this study.

In the first study insufficienttime with the approach of the approach(Fuson.Whetherthese limitationsare inherentin this approach Word/Numeral of certainfeaturesof the approachor simply to due to inadequateimplementation for some childrenis not clear.particularly with the ten-digitproblem. Finally. although the scores on the addition and subtraction computationtests and the shifts in errorsfrom pretestto posttest were similarin Study 1 and Study 2.and manychildrenin Study2 did not generalizetradingto all of the items on the Traded or are Test. traded2 insteadof 1 when necessary. materials. but many children do not seem spontaneously to use their
.and teachersupport. the blocks can be a powerful support for children's thinking. but there still might have been some bias towardparticipationby the better teachers in the district. Children in Study 1 showed in the interview quantitative to exof writtenmultidigitnumeralsand used this understanding understanding tradingproceduresin both additionand subtraction.202
Base-TenBlocks Learning/Teaching Approach
schools). performance by second graders of all for third achievementlevels considerablyexceeded thatreportedin the literature Most childrenlearnedto tradein four-digitadgradersreceivingusualinstruction. The approachdid not result in maximal learning in all areas by all children.so the learning/teaching approachcan be used successfully with a fairlywide rangeof children. 1986a). Thus. teachersin Study 2 did ask for their own set of blocks for the Many participating so one set of blocks per building is clearly not ideal.Childrenfrom a small city/suburban lation and childrenfrom a wide range of schools in a large urbanschool district demonstratedsuch learning.and childrenshowed considerablegeneralizato multidigitproblemslargerthanfour tion of multidigitadditionand subtraction digits. additionand subtraction GENERAL DISCUSSION On all tests and interview measures. more sets of blocks may facilitatethe use of place-valueunits in the crowdedendof-the-yearschedule. plain one/tenandten/hundred These results indicatethat second-gradeclassroom teacherscan use the learneffectively to supporthigh levels of meaningfullearningin ing/teachingapproach heterogeneouspopumany of theirchildren. telling childrento "thinkabout the blocks" was sufficient for most of them to self-correcterrorsthey were still making after the initial learningor to self-correcterrorsthat began to appearon delayed posttests after correct initial learning. dition and subtraction problems. the lack of interviewdatain Study 2 means thatit andcould explainmultidigit is not clearwhetherthe childrenin Study2 understood as well as could the childrenin Study 1. coming year. Most childrenaligned uneven additionproblemson the right. Some childrencontinuedto make occasional tradingand fact errors.Some childrenwere not able consistently in subtraction to choose the largerof two three-digitthroughseven-digit pairs of numbers.columnerrorsfrequentlyresultingfrom usual instructionwere virtuallyeliminated. In particular.The successful learningin both studcould be implementedon a broad ies indicatedthatthe learning/teaching approach scale with a moderateamountof in-service time.and could translatefrom mixed words and numeralsto multidigit numerals.

in press. might be examined. & Patashnick. These studies are also limited because they were not intended to provide a complete addition and subtractionor place-value experience.The approach had many features. Thus.followed considerablylater by work with three-digitand even laterby four-digitnumbers. 1989).several aspectsof a more gradualuse of base-tenblocks as proposedelsewhere do not seem to be necessaryfor high levels of skill andunderThese includeprostanding.1985). how the featuresrelateto children'slearningare discussed in Fuson (in press a). Wood.ratherextensive experiencewith
. relative benefits of using the learning/teaching approachto supand addition subtraction port prechosen multidigit procedures. in press b). Otherpossible outcomes of these differentapproaches(for andcoopexample. the focus of the present studies on computation as multidigit additionand subtractionand place value) meaning (on understanding with be contrasted as problemsolving (Labinowicz. Fuson and Diane J.. The computation might latterdoes not necessarily result in more competence (for example. but the supportof the learning/teaching approachin Figure 1 might help childreninvent multidigitadditionand subtraction procedures. not all of which may be crucial to its success.or within serial small groups.within simultaneoussmall groups. eration with peers as reportedin Nicholls.KarenC.16 correctly. These features stemmed from the need to provide children an opportunityto construct conceptual structuresfor the mathematicallydifferentEnglish named-valuesystem of numberwords and the positionalbase-ten system of writtenmarksand to think about how these systems work in multidigitaddition and subtraction. Third. First.attemptsto understand.Future work might explore how well the learning/teaching approachcould supportthese more extensive goals. beliefs thatsuccess dependson effort. Yackel. estimation. 1990.g.Kamii. Cobb. we took no position concerning whether the teacher or the children moved the blocks or whether learning proceeded within a total class approach. This suggests thatfrequentsolving of one multidigitadditionor subtraction problem accompanied by children's thinking about the blocks and evaluating their written-marks proceduremightbe a powerfulmeansto reducethe occasionaltrading errorsmade by children. for a small-group problem-solving classroom organization)might be explored. and they all seemed to be effective. longed work with two-digit numbers.as in the present studies. In Study 1 differentteachers used all of these. only 34% of the third graderswho had reinvented arithmetic without traditionalinstruction solved 43 . A limitationof both of these studiesis thattheirdesigns did not permitan evaluation of any of the specific features of the learning/teachingapproach.because they were not implementedin our approach. versus using the approachto supportproceduresinvented by children. Fuson. Second. These two studies raise several issues for futureresearchconcerningthe use of and place value (see embodimentsin learningmultidigitadditionand subtraction also Baroody.alternativemethods of adding and subtracting). Briars
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knowledgeof the blocks to monitortheirwrittenmultidigitadditionor subtraction. Obviously importanttopics were omittedthatrelateto the goals of understanding multidigitadditionand subtraction(e.

.The learning/teachfor ing activitiestested in these studiesdo seem to be developmentallyappropriate second-gradechildrenof all achievementlevels except perhapsthose with special difficulties. Algebraic and arithmeticstructures: A concreteapproachfor elementaryschool teachers.Even though many average-achieving first graderswere able to learn the multidigitadditionalgorithm. New York: The Free Press. R. A.
REFERENCES Baroody. M.and special educationteachers. but it seems wise to may establishthat these aspects do bringparticular undertake such researchratherthanmerely to assertthese benefits. C. Some of these childrenmay still requireperceptualunit items for thinkingabout single-digit numbers and thus may have trouble using the blocks to construct and thousand-unit items made out of collected conceptualten-unit. The resultssuggesta gradeplacementfor multidigitadditionandsubtraction and place-value concepts with this approach. 80. Baroody. (1976). (1987).pictorialrecordingbefore recordingwith base-ten written marks.it may be betterto concentratein the first grade on helping childrento build and use their for addingandsubtracting unitarysequence/counting conceptualstructures singledigit numbers(i. (1988). 202-205. 1987. digits year (Fuson.. (in press).A.A. Baroody.e. 1984. Teachersreportedthat second-gradechildrenin both studies enjoyed the learningactivities and felt good aboutthemselves and their ability to do such Thus.their relatively poorerperformanceon some aspects of the interview suggests that the approach in these studies risks pushing childrenbeyond their comfortablelearningrange. ceptual structures especially given the interferencethe irregular Englishnumberwords createfor this task (cf. addingone or two each what our childrencan learn. M. the typical textbook extension of multidigit problems with understanding. Therefore. additionandsubtraction problemsover Grades2 through4 or 5. K. How and when shouldplace-valueconcepts and skills be taught? Journalfor Research in MathematicsEducation. 1985. ones. and use of the blocks to count on by tens and hundreds (e. Construction of EducationalPsychology. sums and differences to 18). may be too difficultfor manyfirst graders. Davis.K.g. Wynroth.hundred-unit. Trying to build simultaneously these unitaryconceptualstructuresand the multiunitnamed-value/base-ten conneededfor multidigitadditionand subtraction. Fuson & Kwon. Journal Cauley. J.
. in press). & Lesh. primary. New York: TeachersCollege Press. in press c). S. underestimates The conceptualbases for generalmultidigitadditionandsubtraction algorithmsare well within the capacity of most second gradersif they are learnedwith the supportof physical materialsthatembody the relative size of the base-tenplaces and demonstrate the positional natureof the multidigitwrittenmarksand if the focus of such learningis understanding and not just procedural competence. Fuson..1980). Labinowicz.204
Base-Ten Blocks Learning/Teaching Approach
tradingbefore tradingis set within additionproblems.extensive practicejust with the blocks with no recording. for first graders of average and below-average mathematics achievement and perhapseven for many high-achievingfirst graders.. Bell. Futureresearch benefits. Children'smathematicalthinking: A developmental framework for preschool. of logical knowledge: Studyof borrowingin subtraction.

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AUTHORS KAREN C. Comparisonsof Americanand Japanesefirst graders'cognitive of numberandunderstanding of place value.E. A developmentaltheoryof numberunderstanding.. (1989). Cobb. & Cobb... E. Professor. Focus on LearningProblemsin Mathematics. AdResnick.. Arithmetic 47-51.Y. H. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American EducationalResearch Association. Wood.Journalof EducationalPsychology.. 2003 SheridanRoad. L. H. (1988). L.). L. E. NY: WynrothMath Program. P. (1981).New York: Academic. Wynroth. Steffe. (1989).21. 109-122. Constructionof arithmeticalmeanings and strategies. Ross. Journalfor Research in Mathematics Education.R.I.wholes.. & Ginsburg.S. arithmetic.28(6). Directorof the Division of Mathematics. P.and application. The developmentof informaland formalmathematical thinking in Koreanand U. 1286-1296. F.Evanston. NJ: Erlbaum. Underhill.36(6). (1987). representation 109-113. developmentof mathematicalthinking.Child Development. BRIARS. L. J..