In this article, we present a mathematical analysis that distinguishes two distinct quantitative perspectives on ratios and proportional relationships: variable number of fixed quantities and fixed numbers of variable parts. This parallels the distinction between measurement and partitive meanings for division and between two meanings for multiplication—one rooted in counting equal-sized groups, the other in scaling the size of the groups. We argue that (a) the distinction in perspectives is independent from other distinctions in the literature on proportional relationships, including the within measure space versus between measure space ratio distinction; (b) the psychological roots for multiplication suggest the accessibility of the two perspectives to learners; and (c) the fixed numbers of variable parts perspective, though largely overlooked in past research, may provide an important foundation for central topics that build on proportional relationships. We also suggest directions for future empirical research.
Sybilla Beckmann, Department of Mathematics, Boyd Graduate Studies Building, 200 D. W. Brooks Drive, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602; email@example.com
Andrew Izsák, Department of Mathematics and Science Education, Aderhold Hall, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602; firstname.lastname@example.org