Rational-Number Comparison Across Notation: Fractions, Decimals, and Whole Numbers


Although fractions, decimals, and whole numbers can be used to represent the same rational-number values, it is unclear whether adults conceive of these rational-number magnitudes as lying along the same ordered mental continuum. In the current study, we investigated whether adults’ processing of rational-number magnitudes in fraction, decimal, and whole-number notation show systematic ratio-dependent responding characteristic of an integrated mental continuum. Both reaction time (RT) and eye-tracking data from a number-magnitude comparison task revealed ratio-dependent performance when adults compared the relative magnitudes of rational numbers, both within the same notation (e.g., fractions vs. fractions) and across different notations (e.g., fractions vs. decimals), pointing to an integrated mental continuum for rational numbers across notation types. In addition, eye-tracking analyses provided evidence of an implicit whole-number bias when we compared values in fraction notation, and individual differences in this whole-number bias were related to the individual’s performance on a fraction arithmetic task. Implications of our results for both cognitive development research and math education are discussed.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Michelle Hurst
Michelle Hurst
Assistant Professor

My research interests include mathematical development and variations in performance across contexts.