BOX 2–3 Interpreting Observations of Student Performance on Balance-Scale Problems

Siegler (1976) describes how children who use the different rules described in Box 2–1 will produce different patterns of response to the problems presented in Box 2–2. For instance, children using Rule I would be expected to predict correctly on balance, weight, and conflict-weight problems and incorrectly on the other three problem types. Children using Rule II would behave similarly, except that they would answer correctly on distance problems. The figure below shows the predicted percentage of correct answers on each problem type for children using each of the four rules.

In a study of 5-to 17-year-olds solving balance-scale problems, Siegler found that more than 80 percent used one of the four rules consistently; the other 20 percent produced less consistent patterns of responses that did not match perfectly any of the above profiles. This finding may reflect an intermediate or transitional state of responding, which would not be unexpected in children’s development.

SOURCE: Siegler (1976, p. 486). Used by permission of Academic Press.

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