Representational change and children's numerical estimation.

2007-11-01T00:00:00Z (GMT) by John E. Opfer Robert Siegler

We applied overlapping waves theory and microgenetic methods to examine how children improve their estimation proficiency, and in particular how they shift from reliance on immature to mature representations of numerical magnitude. We also tested the theoretical prediction that feedback on problems on which the discrepancy between two representations is greatest will cause the greatest representational change. Second graders who initially were assessed as relying on an immature representation were presented feedback that varied in degree of discrepancy between the predictions of the mature and immature representations. The most discrepant feedback produced the greatest representational change. The change was strikingly abrupt, often occurring after a single feedback trial, and impressively broad, affecting estimates over the entire range of numbers from 0 to 1000. The findings indicated that cognitive change can occur at the level of an entire representation, rather than always involving a sequence of local repairs.