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Developing Ratio and Proportion Schemes: A Story of a Fifth Grader

Jane Jane Lo, Tad Watanabe 

March 1997, Volume 28, Issue 2, Page 216

There is a growing theoretical consensus that the concepts of ratio and proportion do not develop in isolation. Rather, they are part of the individual's multiplicative conceptual field, which includes other concepts such as multiplication, division, and rational numbers. The current study attempted to clarify the beginning of this developmental process. One fifth-grade student, Bruce, was encouraged to schematize his trial-and-error-based method, which was effective in solving so-called missing-value tasks. This study describes several advancements Bruce made during the teaching experiment and analyzes the challenges Bruce faced in attempting to schematize his method. Finally, the mathematical knowledge Bruce needed to further develop his ratio and proportion concepts is identified. The findings provide additional support for the view that the development of ratio and proportion concepts is embedded within the development of the multiplicative conceptual field.

Case Study Methods
Grades 3-5
Conceptual Development
Connections / Applications
Fractions / Decimals / Percents / Rational Numbers
Reasoning and Proof
Multiplication and Division