Proportional Reasoning in 5- to 6-Year-Olds

Wei He, Yingying Yang, Dingguo Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


There have been mixed results in studies investigating proportional reasoning in young children. The current study aimed to examine whether providing visual scaling cues and structuring the reasoning process can improve proportional reasoning in 5- to 6-year-old children. In a series of computerized tasks, children compared the sweetness of 2 mixtures. Each mixture was represented by a juice rectangle stacked on top of a water rectangle. Two rectangles shared the same width but were of same or different heights. The mixtures were scaled by either changing their widths or their heights. In Experiment 1, children’s performance was poor when judging equivalent proportions. In Experiment 2, the 2 mixtures were individually previewed to encourage individual estimation of each mixture and thereby allow participants to strategically reason about the relative proportions. Children performed significantly better than in Experiment 1. In Experiment 3, children explicitly rated the sweetness of each preview mixture. Performance did not improve relative to Experiment 2. Throughout all 3 experiments, children were more sensitive in detecting equivalence when scaling occurred along the width compared with the height, demonstrating the effectiveness of visual-spatial scaling cues. Together, these experiments suggested that visuospatial scaling cues and structuring the 2-step reasoning process using previews can improve 5- to 6-year-olds’ proportional reasoning with certain limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-412
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 8 Aug 2018


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