Young children's intuitive understanding of rectangular area measurement

Lynne N. Outhred*, Michael C. Mitchelmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)


The focus of this article is the strategies young children use to solve rectangular covering tasks before they have been taught area measurement. One hundred fifteen children from Grades 1 to 4 were observed while they solved various array-based tasks, and their drawings were collected and analyzed. Children's solution strategies were classified into 5 developmental levels; we suggest that children sequentially learn 4 principles underlying rectangular covering. In the analysis we emphasize the importance of understanding the relation between the size of the unit and the dimensions of the rectangle in learning about rectangular covering, clarify the role of multiplication, and identify the significance of a relational understanding of length measurement. Implications for the learning of area measurement are addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-167
Number of pages24
JournalJournal for Research in Mathematics Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Children's strategies
  • Cognitive development
  • Early childhood, K-4
  • Manipulatives
  • Measurement
  • Multiplication
  • Representations
  • Visualization/spatial reasoning

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