Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

School Science and Mathematics

Volume

118

Issue

1

Publisher

Wiley Online Library

Publication Date

1-8-2018

First Page

17

Last Page

29

DOI

10.1111/ssm.12258

Abstract

Place value understanding requires the same activity that students use when developing fractional and algebraic reasoning, making this understanding foundational to mathematics learning. However, many students engage successfully in mathematics classrooms without having a conceptual understanding of place value, preventing them from accessing mathematics that is more sophisticated later. The purpose of this exploratory study is to investigate how upper elementary students' unit coordination related to difficulties they experience when engaging in place value tasks. Understanding place value requires that students coordinate units recursively to construct multi-digit numbers from their single-digit number understandings through forms of unit development and strategic counting. Findings suggest that students identified as low-achieving were capable of only one or two levels of unit coordination. Furthermore, these students relied on inaccurate procedures to solve problems with millennial numbers. These findings indicate that upper elementary students identified as low-achieving are not to yet able to (de)compose numbers effectively, regroup tens and hundreds when operating on numbers, and transition between millennial numbers. Implications of this study suggest that curricula designers and statewide standards should adopt nuances in unit coordination when developing tasks that promote or assess students' place value understanding.

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