Diana A. Sanchez


A basic knowledge of mathematics is required for many social and economic opportunities. Thus, understanding the variables related to children’s math learning is of utmost importance. This study explores the role of cognitive reflection on children’s mathematics learning. Cognitive reflection is the tendency to reflect on and override an inaccurate gut response. Only recently has a measure of cognitive reflection been available for use with school-aged children. Young and Shtulman (2020b) found children’s cognitive reflection was an excellent predictor of children’s mathematical equivalence understanding (i.e., knowing the equal sign means “the same as”). Research has not yet established whether cognitive reflection is related to children’s mathematical equivalence learning. The present thesis project establishes whether cognitive reflection is related to children’s learning from a lesson on mathematical equivalence. 183 U.S. 7-to-11-year-olds participated in the study. Students first completed a measure of cognitive reflection (CRT-D) and pretest measures of math equivalence understanding. Students then watched an instructional video on mathematical equivalence and completed posttest measures of math equivalence understanding. As predicted, children with greater cognitive reflection learned more from instruction (i.e., had greater pretest to posttest gains) than children with less cognitive reflection. These findings suggest cognitive reflection is a strong predictor of children's conceptual understanding and mathematical learning. Furthermore, our results suggest the skill of cognitive reflection holds great potential for educators to effectively assist their students in succeeding not only in mathematics but also in their future STEM endeavors.