# The Whole Number Bias in Fraction Magnitude Comparisons with Adults

- Melissa DeWolf,
*Carnegie Mellon University*
- Stella Vosniadou,
*National and Kapodistrian University of Athens*

## Abstract

The current study examines the extent to which the whole number
bias, especially whole number ordering, can interfere with adult understandings
of fractions. Using the framework theory approach to conceptual change as
outlined by Vosniadou (2007; Vosniadou, Vamvakoussi & Skopeliti, 2008), this
study supports the idea that initial concepts formed in childhood can have
lasting effects into adulthood. Twenty-eight CMU undergraduates participated in a
fraction magnitude comparison task. Half of the fraction comparisons were
designed with the larger fraction consistent with whole number ordering; the
other half was inconsistent. Comparisons in the consistent condition had the
larger magnitude fraction have larger whole number parts than the opposing
fraction. Comparisons in the inconsistent condition were the opposite.
Participants were more accurate and faster to respond to comparisons in the
consistent condition, supporting the hypothesis that an initial concept of number
as natural number constrains operations with fractions even in adults.

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