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The importance of specific mathematical language for early proportional reasoning
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
Proportional reasoning is one part of mathematics that is particularly hard to apprehend for children. At the same time, research suggests that already at an early age children develop an ability to make sense of some proportional situations. Previous research has shown that language – be it language in general or language related to mathematics – plays a crucial role in mathematical thinking and learning. The domain of proportional reasoning involves highly content-specific vocabulary (e.g., double). Individual differences in children’s general vocabulary or specific mathematical vocabulary might explain differences in children’s proportional reasoning abilities. However, to our knowledge, no studies investigated the role of language in proportional reasoning at an early age. The present study (n = 343) aims to address this gap by longitudinally investigating if specific mathematical vocabulary related to proportional reasoning in the first year of elementary school predicts proportional reasoning abilities in the second year of elementary school, over and above general vocabulary. Results showed that there were large individual differences between children’s specific mathematical vocabulary knowledge related to proportional reasoning. Furthermore, a hierarchical linear regression analysis showed that some specific mathematical vocabulary concepts related to early proportional reasoning in the first year of elementary school were a unique predictor for proportional reasoning abilities in the second year of elementary school over and above age, SES and general vocabulary. Theoretical and methodological implications are discussed.
Journal: Early Childhood Research Quarterly
Pages: 193 - 200