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The Empty Number Line in Dutch Second Grades: Realistic Versus Gradual Program Design

Anton S. Klein, Meindert Beishuizen, Adri Treffers 

July 1998, Volume 29, Issue 4, Page 443

In this study we compare 2 experimental programs for teaching mental addition and subtraction in the Dutch 2nd grade (N = 275). The goal of both programs is greater flexibility in mental arithmetic through use of the empty number line as a new mental model. The programs differ in instructional design to enable comparison of 2 contrasting instructional concepts. The Realistic Program Design (RPD) stimulates flexible use of solution procedures from the beginning by using realistic context problems. The Gradual Program Design (GPD) has as its purpose a gradual increase of knowledge through initial emphasis on procedural computation followed by flexible problem solving. We found that whereas RPD pupils showed a more varied use of solution procedures than the GPD pupils, this variation did not influence the procedural competence of the pupils. The empty number line appears to be a very powerful model for the learning of addition and subtraction up to 100.

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