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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Children's learning of fractions : a comparison study of user-controlled computer-based learning vs. noninteractive learning environments Cotter, Dale S.


Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Marv Westrom The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of the software program Visual Fractions in teaching basic fraction concepts and the effect that student control over the construction of fraction diagrams had on their learning. The Visual Fractions program provides a diagram and two fractions in numeric form. The diagram consists of a figure divided into partitions with some of the partitions shaded. One fraction represents the shaded parts of the whole and the other represents the unshaded parts. Students can control the total number of partitions and whether each is shaded. Manipulating the diagram changes the value of the fractions. A Non-interactive (crippled) version of the software was designed to eliminate the user-control aspect of the program. Users of this program could click to generate a new fraction, but had no control over the choice of fraction. The computer randomly generated a new fraction and displayed the corresponding diagram each time. A third treatment, Fraction Flash Cards, was designed to simulate the Noninteractive version of the program, without the computer. The students received Flash Cards containing images of the computer-generated fraction diagrams. The study consisted of a pilot project during which data collection techniques were tested and revised and the main study. Sixty-four subjects were taken from four intact classes of grade four students. The students were randomly assigned to one of the three Treatment Groups or the Control Group. Three different sets of data were collected: a pretest and postest on fractions, structured interviews, and field notes taken by the researcher during the treatment process. In Treatment Group One, students used the Interactive Version of Visual Fractions. Here, students could create fractions at their command. There is evidence to suggest that this type of interactive control is a critical factor in learning (Merrill, 1987). In Treatment Group Two, students used the Noninteractive version of the software. Students could control the rate of observing fractions and fraction diagrams, but not the value of the fraction. Students in Treatment Group Three used the Flash Cards. Motivation appears to strongly affect one's ability to learn and children appear to be highly motivated to use computers. The purpose of this treatment was to control for any achievement gain that may have been due to the novelty of using computers. The four Groups were compared using analysis of variance with repeated measures. Significance at the 0.01 level was found for the tests and the interaction. A study of the interaction showed that there was no significant difference between the gains of the Visual Fractions Noninteractive Group, the Flash Card Group, or the Control Group. However the gain achieved by the Visual Fractions Interactive Group was significant. From this study, it is clear that the Visual Fractions Interactive program which provides students the opportunity to construct fraction diagrams with immediate feedback, is an effective method of teaching fractions.

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