Mental representation of fractions: It all depends on whether they are common or uncommon

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Liu, Fuchang

Fuchang Liu. 2018. Mental representation of fractions: It all depends on whether they are common or uncommon. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, vol. 71:no. 9:pp 1873-1886


This study examined whether common and uncommon fractions are mentally represented differently and whether common ones are used in accessing the magnitudes of uncommon ones. In Experiments 1 and 2, college education majors, most of whom were female, Caucasian, and in their early 20s, made comparisons involving common and uncommon fractions. In Experiment 3, participants were presented with comparison tasks involving uncommon fractions and asked to describe the strategies which they used in making such comparisons. Analysis of reaction times and error rates support the hypothesis that for common fractions, it is their holistic real value, rather than their individual components, that gets represented. For uncommon fractions, the access of their magnitudes is a process of retrieving and using a known common one having a similar value. Such results suggest that the development of the cognisance of the magnitudes of fractions may be principally a matter of common ones only and that learners' handling of uncommon fractions may be greatly facilitated through instructions on matching them with common ones having a similar value.

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