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Using multiplication and division contexts with young children to develop part–whole thinking

Brenda Bicknell, Jenny Young-Loveridge, Jo Lelieveld, and John Brooker

This article reports on a New Zealand study with 5- and 6-year-old children that focused on the use of multiplication and division word problems to build part–whole thinking. Using a design research methodology, researchers and two teachers developed word problems using familiar contexts and materials with groups of two, five, and ten. Children were assessed before and after a series of targeted lessons and showed improvement in basic number knowledge, including subitising, counting, recall of number facts, place value, and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problem-solving. The researchers and teachers found that using problems involving multiplication and division, numbers beyond 20, and multiple representations, helped extend children’s mathematical reasoning beyond commonly held expectations.

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