Finnish pre-service teachers’ and upper secondary students’ understanding of division and reasoning strategies used

New article in Educational Studies in Mathematics, written by Raimo Kaasila, Erkki Pehkonen and Anu Hellinen: Finnish pre-service teachers’ and upper secondary students’ understanding of division and reasoning strategies used

Abstract

In this paper, we focus on Finnish pre-service elementary teachers’ (N = 269) and upper secondary students’ (N = 1,434) understanding of division. In the questionnaire, we used the following non-standard division problem: “We know that 498:6 = 83. How could you conclude from this relationship (without using long-division algorithm) what 491:6 = ? is?” This problem especially measures conceptual understanding, adaptive reasoning, and procedural fluency. Based on the results, we can conclude that division seems not to be fully understood: 45% of the pre-service teachers and 37% of upper secondary students were able to produce complete or mainly correct solutions. The reasoning strategies used by these two groups did not differ very much. We identified four main reasons for problems in understanding this task: (1) staying on the integer level, (2) an inability to handle the remainder, (3) difficulties in understanding the relationships between different operations, and (4) insufficient reasoning strategies. It seems that learners’ reasoning strategies in particular play a central role when teachers try to improve learners’ proficiency.

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