Solving Math Problems Approximately

סוג הפרסום: מאמר בכתב עת
פורסם ע"י: דנה גנאור-שטרן
שנת הוצאה: 2016
שם הספר/כתב העת: PLOS ONE
שם המאמר: Solving Math Problems Approximately: A Developmental Perspective
עמודים: 1-16
מספר גיליון: 11(5)


Although solving arithmetic problems approximately is an important skill in everyday life, little is known about the development of this skill. Past research has shown that when children are asked to solve multi-digit multiplication problems approximately, they provide estimates that are often very far from the exact answer. This is unfortunate as computation estimation is needed in many circumstances in daily life. The present study examined 4th graders, 6th graders and adults’ ability to estimate the results of arithmetic problems relative to a reference number. A developmental pattern was observed in accuracy, speed and strategy use. With age there was a general increase in speed, and an increase in accuracy mainly for trials in which the reference number was close to the exact answer. The children tended to use the sense of magnitude strategy, which does not involve any calculation but relies mainly on an intuitive coarse sense of magnitude, while the adults used the approximated calculation strategy which involves rounding and multiplication procedures, and relies to a greater extent on calculation skills and working memory resources. Importantly, the children were less accurate than the adults, but were well above chance level. In all age groups performance was enhanced when the reference number was smaller (vs. larger) than the exact answer and when it was far (vs. close) from it, suggesting the involvement of an approximate number system. The results suggest the existence of an intuitive sense of magnitude for the results of arithmetic problems that might help children and even adults with difficulties in math. The present findings are discussed in the context of past research reporting poor estimation skills among children, and the conditions that might allow using children estimation skills in an effective manner.