The Struggle to Link Written Symbols with Understandings: An Update

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  • 1 the University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716

Two of the most striking and informative results from recent research on children's mathematics learning are the following. On the one hand, many children possess a surprising degree of competence with mathematical situations outside of school. For example, before beginning school, most young children can solve simple addition and subtraction stories, such as “Mary has 8 pennies. She gives 3 pennies to Roger. How many does she have left?” (Carpenter and Moser 1984; DeCorte and Verschaffel 1987; Riley, Greeno, and Heller 1983). In other words, before children have been taught how to add and subtract, they can solve addition and s ubtraction problems. Similarly, older children, as well as adults, can solve a variety of real-world problems using strategies that they have not learned directly in school (Carraher, Carraher, and Schliemann 1987; Lave, Murtaugh, and de Ia Rocha 1984; Scdbner 1984).


James Hiebert is especially interested in how children make sense of written mathematical symbols.

The Arithmetic Teacher


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