Understanding Rational Numbers – Obstacles for Learners With and Without Mathematical Learning Difficulties

  • Andreas ObersteinerEmail author
  • Kristina Reiss
  • Wim Van Dooren
  • Jo Van Hoof


Many children have problems with learning rational numbers. Recent research has shed light on the cognitive mechanisms that may account for these difficulties. In this chapter, we first review theoretical frameworks and empirical evidence that help understanding learners’ difficulties with rational numbers. Next, we discuss whether these difficulties with rational numbers are the same for learners with and without mathematical learning difficulties. To identify effective teaching approaches, we briefly review recent intervention studies on rational number learning. Finally, we discuss implications for teaching and learning of rational numbers and desiderata for future research.


Mathematical learning difficulties Rational numbers Fractions Conceptual change Dual processes 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Obersteiner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kristina Reiss
    • 2
  • Wim Van Dooren
    • 3
  • Jo Van Hoof
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Mathematics EducationUniversity of Education FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.School of EducationTechnical University of MunichMunichGermany
  3. 3.Centre for Instructional Psychology and TechnologyKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  4. 4.Centre for Instructional Psychology and TechnologyFaculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, KU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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