Mathematical competence is an important determinant of life chances in modern society. Recent research demonstrates that fractions are a particularly important form of mathematical knowledge; fractions knowledge seems to play a gatekeeper role in supporting knowledge of algebra and more advanced forms of math that are central to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

This NSF funded project will test a new model for addressing a widespread deficit in fractions knowledge: the fact that learners generally lack a solid conception of fraction magnitudes. Learners frequently have problems orderingproblems by size and commit gross errors in estimation. This research is based on findings suggesting that humans –and even monkeys – are naturally sensitive to fraction values when they are represented nonsymbolically, such as when using two lines whose lengths are in a 1:2 ratio to represent ½.

This research will investigate the limits of this perceptual sensitivity among 8th grade students and adults.Additionally, we will explore ways to use perceptual training to enhance understanding of symbolic fractions.Finally, we in collaboration with the EdNeuroLab, we will conduct neuroimaging experiments to try to identify the neural regions most responsible for supporting fractions knowledge.