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Summary of Reference

Ritchie, Garth

Does Mathematics Equipment Help? Interviews With Children Using Equipment

Bibliographic data:
Ritchie, G. (1991). Does mathematics equipment help? Interviews with children using equipment. SAMEPapers, 79-101

Although it seems obvious that experiences with mathematics equipment must assist children’s learning, some research calls into question the assumption that mathematics equipment will always benefit learning.

It is clear that we do not have a good understanding of the conditions required for using equipment to enhance learning. Also, we do not understand the mechanisms by which equipment use results in improved learning.

The paper attempts to provide some answers to the question: ‘when does mathematics equipment help?’. The research is based on interviews with children. It seems that children’s experiences do affect the way in which they use equipment and that they choose equipment that is consistent with the strategies that they use when they solve similar problems without equipment. Probably children benefit most by exposure to equipment that is in advance of, but not too far in advance of, their current understanding of number.

The research may be summarised by two propositions:

  • equipment experiences can aid children’s development of more abstract concepts of number
  • equipment is valuable only to the extent that programmes encourage children to reflect on their use of equipment.