New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 143–158 | Cite as

Investigating Children’s Thinking About Suspended Balances

  • Jill CheesemanEmail author
  • Andrea McDonough
  • Dianne Golemac


With limited prior research on young children’s learning of the measurement of mass, the study reported in this paper provides insights that can usefully inform teaching. Close examination of the actions and conversations of 12 children of 5–7 years of age, as they experimented for the first time with suspended balance scales, led to the identification of themes presented in this paper through focused discussion of the explorations of five of the children. Stimulated by exploration and investigation of the tool, children were creative in figuring out how the tool worked, reasoned mathematically, and gave attention to some “big” ideas of mathematics. They were also able to transfer knowledge, express notions of equivalence, mathematise and generalise from their experiences. The study emphasises the importance of eliciting children’s mathematical reasoning, the value of attending to what children notice, and the need for careful and specific use of comparative terms.


Mathematical reasoning Equivalence Investigative play 


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Copyright information

© New Zealand Association for Research in Education 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill Cheeseman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea McDonough
    • 2
  • Dianne Golemac
    • 1
  1. 1.Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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