Published Online: May 14, 2013
Published in Print: May 15, 2013, as Graphic Comprehension

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Graphic Comprehension

"Extraneous Perceptual Information Interferes With Children's Acquisition of Mathematical Knowledge"

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Graphics are often intended to engage children in learning otherwise dry material, such as data on a chart, but efforts to make charts more appealing artistically can interfere with students' ability to comprehend the information they represent, according to new research.

Writing this month in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Ohio State University psychologists Jennifer Kaminski and Vladimir M. Sloutsky describe four experiments in which 122 middle-class 6- to 8-year-olds learned to read basic bar charts. Some of the charts used solid bars, while others depicted the same information using stacks of countable objects, such as cartoon shoes or flowers.

The researchers found students often mistakenly tried to count the individual objects in the stacked charts, rather than reading the chart data. As a result, students exposed to the countable stacks performed significantly lower on comprehending the chart when the number of items stacked differed from the real data.

When then exposed to a basic chart without countable objects, the children could not read it.

Vol. 32, Issue 31, Page 5

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