Semantic Alignment Across Whole-Number Arithmetic and Rational Numbers: Evidence from a Russian Perspective
Solutions to word problems are moderated by the semantic alignment of real-world relations with mathematical operations. Categorical relations between entities (tulips, roses) are aligned with addition, whereas certain functional relations between entities (tulips, vases) are aligned with division. Similarly, discreteness vs. continuity of quantities (marbles, water) is aligned with different formats for rational numbers (fractions and decimals, respectively). These alignments have been found both in textbooks and in the performance of college students in the USA and in South Korea. The current study examined evidence for alignments in Russia. Textbook analyses revealed semantic alignments for arithmetic word problems, but not for rational numbers. Nonetheless, Russian college students showed semantic alignments both for arithmetic operations and for rational numbers. Since Russian students exhibit semantic alignments for rational numbers in the absence of exposure to examples in school, such alignments likely reflect intuitive understanding of mathematical representations of real-world situations.