Building conceptual knowledge of fraction operations among pre-service teachers: Effect of a representation-based teaching approach within a teacher education program

Elise Thurtell, Tricia Forrester, Mohan Chinnappan


A deep understanding of fraction concepts and operations is necessary if pre-service teachers (PSTs) are to present the concepts in multiple forms to learners. Such an understanding needs to be grounded in rich conceptual knowledge. In the present study, we explore the development of this understanding by supporting a cohort of 103 PSTs, who had previously demonstrated poor conceptual understanding of fraction concepts and operations, with a Representational Reasoning in Teaching and Learning (RRTL) approach aimed at strengthening their conceptual knowledge. A comparison of pre- and post-test results indicated that participants showed a significant improvement in shifting the balance of their fraction knowledge to the conceptual end of the procedural-conceptual spectrum. Insights into how this approach assisted in developing PSTs’ conceptual understanding were explored through interviews with four participants and an analysis of their pre- and post-test responses. We suggest that the use of teaching strategies such as RRTL are necessary in order to assist PSTs develop strong conceptual knowledge of fractions.

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