Jeong Levine Huttenlocher - J Cognition and Development

The Development of Proportional Reasoning: Effect of Continuous Versus Discrete Quantities
Journal of Cognition and Development, Volume 8, Issue 2 April 2007 , pages 237 - 256

Authors: Yoonkyung Jeong; Susan C. Levine; Janellen Huttenlocher

This study examines the development of children's ability to reason about proportions that involve either discrete entities or continuous amounts. Six-, 8- and 10-year olds were presented with a proportional reasoning task in the context of a game involving probability. Although all age groups failed when proportions involved discrete quantities, even the youngest age group showed some success when proportions involved continuous quantities. These findings indicate that quantity type strongly affects children's ability to make judgments of proportion. Children's greater success in judging proportions involving continuous quantities appears to be related to their use of different strategies in the presence of countable versus noncountable entities. In two discrete conditions, children—particularly 8- and 10-year-olds—adopted an erroneous counting strategy, considering the number of target elements but not the relation between target and nontarget elements, either in terms of number or amount. In contrast, in the continuous condition, when it was not possible to count, children may have relied on an early developing ability to code the relative amounts of target and nontarget regions.