Analogical reasoning in children's reading and addition

Farrington-Flint, Lee (2004). Analogical reasoning in children's reading and addition. PhD thesis The Open University.



The purpose of the research was to examine the role of analogical reasoning in children's early reading and addition and to look for possible commonalities in children's performance across these two educational contexts. The research comprised four studies. Study I was a preliminary investigation of individual differences in children's use of analogies in beginning reading. In this study, 55 five-to six year-old beginning readers were presented with the traditional clue word analogy task incorporating either real word or non-word test items. After the presentation of an initial clue word that was decoded for them, children were asked to read a series of related and unrelated target words. Distinct patterns of analogy emerged with regard to the children's ability to use different combinations of orthographic and phonological relations using cluster analysis. The findings illustrated the usefulness of identifying profiles of orthographic and phonological relations for characterising children's development in learning to read. Study 2 was designed to extend the findings from Study 1 by examining whether children's traditional analogical reasoning abilities, short-term memory and their reading related skills could provide some explanations for these patterns of individual differences in reasoning skills in beginning reading. The results of Study 2 supported those of Study 1 revealing distinct patterns in children's use of orthographic and phonological relations. Although single word reading and early phonological knowledge were systematically related to these different patterns of analogy, measures of traditional analogical reasoning skill were unable to account for differences in children's profiles. The purpose of Study 3 was to systematically explore the possibility that analogies are important for children's addition. In this study, 66 five-to-seven year-olds were given an addition-based analogy task designed to assess their ability to solve series of addition problems that were either conceptually related or unrelated to a solved addition problem. Similar to Study 2, children also solved a series of traditional analogical reasoning tasks, designed to assess their ability to solve analogies based on thematic, causal and visual relations. The results indicated that children's use of analogy to solve commuted addition problems was systematically related to their profiles of addition problem solving skills, although no relation was found between children's use of addition analogy and traditional analogical reasoning tasks. In Study 4,69 five-to-six year-olds were given a revised version of the reading and addition analogy tasks presented in Studies 2 and 3 to examine possible similarities in children's analogical reasoning skills across the two domains. Individual self-reports of strategies showed that the children relied on a wide repertoire of strategies for solving related analogy problems in reading and addition. Furthermore, children's patterns of responses to solving analogical problems indicated that most children who reported using analogy strategies in early reading had high levels of analogical reasoning in addition. The findings suggest that there may be a common analogical reasoning component underlying the two domains of reading and mathematics. Overall, the four studies suggest that children's ability to reason about conceptual relations are an important aspect of their development in reading and addition and that the study of analogical reasoning across different educational contexts can provide important insights into children's cognitive development.

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