What is it about?

Many students struggle to master fractions, potentially because of interference from their prior whole number knowledge. Consistent with this explanation, we found that students with better inhibitory control – the ability to resolve interference – had better fraction performance. However, the results did not suggest that whole number magnitude knowledge was the source of interference.

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Why is it important?

Our findings point to a pivotal role for inhibitory control in developing fraction understanding that is more general than overcoming whole number magnitude knowledge.


This article is exciting because it addresses a longstanding puzzle in the fraction literature about whether whole number knowledge helps or hinders fraction understanding. Another reason these findings are exciting is because the data come from a large, diverse sample of students in grades 3-7.

Elena Leib
University of California Berkeley

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Testing the whole number interference hypothesis: Contributions of inhibitory control and whole number knowledge to fraction understanding., Developmental Psychology, May 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/dev0001557.
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