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Conservation of Number Among Four and Five Year Old Children: Some Methodological Considerations

Rothenberg, Barbara B.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Carnegie Corporation, Cognitive Development, Concept Formation, Conservation (Concept), Developmental Psychology, Evaluation Methods, Preschool Children, Social Differences


This study investigates certain methodological issues in current conservation of number assessment procedures. Concern was most particularly directed to the effects on conservation status of the focus and number of questions asked, the presentation of various transformations, and the use of justifications of prior judgments. The subjects were 210 lower and middle class preschool and kindergarten aged children. The results showed important differences in the number of conservers identified depending on the conservation question or questions asked and on the number of transformations presented. Lower class children were seen to be more likely inaccurately assessed in terms of conservation status than middle class children. The results also suggested that further study be devoted to the eliciting of and value placed on Ss' justifications. Overall, only 6% of the Ss were actually found to be conservers. The impact of the methodological findings is discussed and evaluated.

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