The concept of fractions has been a challenge for children for many years. Researchers at the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education turned to the research of Dr. Leslie Steffe to find out why. The AIMS research team learned that the difficulties with fractions are related to children’s understanding of whole number and how students can think about whole numbers in more than one way at a time. It became apparent through the work done by Les Steffe that the process of coming to understand whole number is far more sophisticated than adults may realize.
This team explores Dr. Steffe’s research on how children develop a sense of whole number in additive situations, which progress along a continuum from concrete material toward a completely abstract concept of number, and Dr. Steffe has identified specific stages of this development. Our goal is to design student experiences that teachers can use to move their students along this continuum as they begin to form an understanding of additive reasoning.
Observing and recording students at different places along the continuum and identifying specific indicators of the stages is allowing us to collect a video library of children demonstrating the different stages as identified by Dr. Steffe. These videos will be used to help us share the research findings with classroom teachers. Our intention is that information gained as a result of this project will be used to continue our pursuance of research that can address the difficulties in understanding the concept of fractions.