Refuting Misconceptions: Computer Tutors for Fraction Arithmetic


  • Sabrina M. Di Lonardo Burr Orcid
  • Heather Douglas Orcid
  • Maria Vorobeva Orcid
  • Kasia Muldner Orcid


Fractions, known to be difficult for both children and adults, are especially prone to misconceptions and erroneous strategy selection. The present study investigated whether a computer tutor improves fraction arithmetic performance in adults and if supplementing problem solving with erroneous examples is more beneficial than problem solving alone. Seventy-five undergraduates solved fraction arithmetic problems using a computer tutoring system we designed. In a between-subjects design, 39 participants worked with a problem-solving tutor that was supplemented with erroneous examples and 36 participants worked with a traditional problem-solving tutor. Both tutors provided hints and feedback. Overall, participants improved after the tutoring interventions, but there were no significant differences in gains made by the two conditions. For students with low prior knowledge about fraction arithmetic, the numerical gains were higher in the erroneous-example group than the problem-solving group, but this effect was not significant. Thus, computer tutors are useful tools for improving fraction knowledge. While erroneous examples may be particularly beneficial for students with low prior knowledge who may hold more misconceptions, more research is needed to make this conclusion.