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Theses Doctoral

Investigating the Effects of the MathemAntics Number Line Activity on Children's Number Sense

Creighan, Samantha

Number sense, which can broadly thought of as the ability to quickly understand, approximate, and manipulate numerical quantities, can be a difficult construct for researchers to operationally define for empirical study. Regardless, many researchers agree it plays an important role in the development of the symbolic number system, which requires children to master many tasks such as counting, indentifying numerals, comparing magnitudes, transforming numbers and performing operations, estimating, and detecting number patterns, skills which are predictive of later math achievement. The number line is a powerful model of symbolic number consistent with researchers' hypotheses concerning the mental representation of number. The MathemAntics Number Line Activity (MANL) transforms the number line into a virtual manipulative, encourages estimation, provides multiple attempts, feedback, and scaffolding, and introduces a novel features where the user can define his own level of risk on the number line. The aim of the present study was to examine how these key features of MANL are best implemented to promote number sense in low-income second-graders. Sixty-six students from three schools were randomly assigned to one of three conditions; MANL User-Defined Range (UDR), and MANL Fixed Range (FR), and a Reading comparison condition and underwent a pretest session, four computer sessions, and a posttest session. During the computer sessions, researchers coded a child's observed strategy in placing targets on the number line. The results showed that children with higher number sense ability at pretest performed better on a posttest number line estimation measure when they were in the UDR condition than in the FR condition. Conversely, children with low number sense ability at pretest performed better on the number line estimation posttest measure when they were in the FR condition than UDR. Although in general, all children improved over time, children with low number sense ability at pretest were more likely to use the UDR tool ineffectively, thus negatively impacting performance. When children were not coded as responding quickly, target number significantly impacted performance in the computer sessions. Finally, children in the UDR condition utilized better expressed strategies on the number line estimation posttest than children in the Reading comparison group. These findings indicate that prior number sense ability plays a role in how children engage with MANL, which in turn affects the learning benefits the child receives. Implications for researchers, software designers, and math educators, as well as limitations are discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cognitive Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Ginsburg, Herbert P.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014