Development of time, speed, and distance concepts

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Used the rule-assessment approach to examine understanding of the concepts of time, speed, and distance in 36 5-, 8-, and 11-yr-olds and 12 undergraduates. Parallel tasks were developed for the 3 concepts that allowed specification of whether Ss were relying on time, speed, distance, end point, end time, beginning point, or beginning time cues in making their judgments. It was found that 5-yr-olds understood all 3 concepts in the same way: Whichever train ended farther ahead on the tracks was said to have traveled for the longer time, at the faster speed, and for the greater distance. Undergraduates, at the other extreme, understood all 3 concepts as distinct and separate ideas. The transitional period was marked by specific confusions among the 3 concepts: Time was regularly confused with distance, distance was confused with time, and speed was confused with distance and to some extent with end point. Both speed and distance concepts appeared to be mastered well before the concept of time. (15 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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