Children's understanding of the number system

by Noel Douglas Thomas

Institution: Macquarie University
Degree: PhD
Year: 1998
Keywords: Number concept in children  – Australia; Arithmetic  – Study and teaching (Primary)  – Australia
Record ID: 1032335
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/88364


Bibliography: p. 249-285. Background to the study  – Theoretical perspectives: research in numeration  – Review of the literature  – The pilot study  – Methodology  – An overview of results: performance and strategy use  – Discussion of results  – Children's representation and structural development of the counting sequence 1-100  – Conclusions and implications  – References. The development of numeration and place value knowledge is fundamental to an understanding of mathematical concepts and processes. This study investigates the aspects of developing number knowledge which contribute to the apparent failure of children to make sense of numeration as a system. The strategies that children use in solving numeration tasks involving key elements of counting, grouping, and structuring place value are explored. It is questioned how critical aspects of counting and grouping are related to understanding the base ten structure of the numeration system. The study also describes how children's representations of the counting sequence 1-100 reflect their developing structure of the numeration system.  – A broad cross-sectional study of 126 children from Kindergarten to Grade 6 was designed to assess children's acquisition of key elements of counting, grouping/partitioning, regrouping, place value, number sense and structure. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of performance and strategy use were conducted to highlight which aspects were critical in developing numeration knowledge. Further investigation of children's representations of the counting sequence 1-100 is reported and exemplified by a range of pictorial representations drawn from the cross-sectional study and a follow up study of children from Grades 4 to 6.  – This study shows that children do not develop sufficient understanding of numeration as a system; what is needed is for children to make the connections between the many different representations for multiunit numbers being used. Key components of counting, partitioning, grouping and number relations, and the visualisation of structure need to be considered more critically. Strategies that children use to solve numeration tasks are too often based on unitary counting and very few Grade 6 children are able to use the holistic strategies that derive from the structure of the number system. Children's representations of counting frequently reflects a lack of structure, grouping is not sufficiently linked to the formation of multiunits, and additive rather than multiplicative relations dominate the interpretation of multidigit numbers. By the end of primary school, most children have not generalised me way the number system is structured. Furthermore, this study highlights that very little progress in understanding the structure of the number system is made during the last three years of their primary school grades.  – The analysis of children's visualisations of the counting sequence 1-100 reflect to some extent their developing structure of the numeration system. Examples of imagery provided in this…