Xin Rong Yang , Yu Jia Huo , Yan Xiong Yan
DOI: JANT Vol.18(No.4) 237-256, 2014
This paper reports findings from a written assessment which was designed to investigate Chinese primary school students`` understanding of the equal sign and equation structure. The investigation included a sample of 110 Grade 3, 112 Grade 4, and 110 Grade 5 students from four schools in China. Significant differences were identified among the three grades and no gender differences were found. The majority of Grades 3 and 4 students were found to view the equal sign as a place indicator meaning "write the answer here" or "do something like computation", that is, holding an operational view of the equal sign. A part of Grade 5 students were found to be able to interpret the equal sign as meaning "the same as", that is, holding a relational view of the equal sign. In addition, even though it was difficult for Grade 3 students to recognize the underlying structure in arithmetic equation, quite a number of Grades 4 and 5 students were able to recognize the underlying structure on some tasks. Findings in this study suggest that Chinese primary school students demonstrate a relational understanding of the equal sign and a strong structural sense of equations in an earlier grade. Moreover, what found in the study support the argument that students`` understanding of the equal sign is influenced by the context in which the equal sign is presented.