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Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66


A framework of mathematics inductive reasoning

Constantinos Christou*, Eleni Papageorgiou
University of Cyprus, Cyprus


Based on a synthesis of the literature in inductive reasoning, a framework for prescribing and assessing mathematics inductive
reasoning of primary school students was formulated and validated. The major constructs incorporated in this framework were stu-
dents’ cognitive abilities of finding similarities and/or dissimilarities among attributes and relations of mathematical concepts. The
framework was validated through data obtained from 135 fifth grade students in Cyprus, using confirmatory factor analysis, and
proved to be consistent with the data, leading to the conclusion that six distinct cognitive processes aiming at detecting similarity
and/or differences in attributes and relations are used for the solution of inductive mathematics problems dealing with attributes or
relationships. The framework provides a theoretical foundation for curriculum designers and for assessment programs in mathe-
matics inductive reasoning.
Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Mathematics inductive reasoning; Comparison processes; Attributes; Relations

1. Introduction

Inductive reasoning is considered to be the general (g) part of human intelligence (Carroll, 1993) underlying
performance on complex tasks from diverse content domains. It is considered to consist of the educative ability,
that is, the ability to generate the ‘‘new’’ e the productive characteristic of human beings (De Koning, Sijtsma, &
Hamers, 2003; Sternberg & Gardner, 1983). Thus, in recent proposals, the importance of having all students develop
an awareness of inductive reasoning and applications has been recognized (Department of Education and Science and
the Welsh Office, 1991; NCTM, 2000). As a result of this emphasis on reasoning in the school curriculum, there is
a need for further, ongoing research on the structure of inductive reasoning as well as its teaching and learning (Ha-
verty, Koedinger, Klahr, & Alibali, 2000). Moreover, a number of researchers (Fennema et al., 1996) have suggested
ways to bridge the gap between learning and teaching by advocating the importance of instructional frameworks in
which research-based knowledge of students’ thinking is used to inform classroom instruction. In the absence of such
an instructional framework to inform classroom instruction (Fennema et al., 1996), mathematics programs for young
children may be ineffective. Thus, this study addresses the development and validation of such a framework for
inductive reasoning instruction.

* Corresponding author. University of Cyprus, Department of Education, P.O. Box 20537, Nicosia 1678, Cyprus. Tel.: þ357 22 753728;
fax: þ357 22 374141.
E-mail address: edchrist@ucy.ac.cy (C. Christou).

0959-4752/$ - see front matter Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
56 C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66

2. Aims of the research

In this study, we sought to propose and validate a new framework, which describes the components of students’
abilities in mathematics inductive reasoning (Klauer & Phye, 1994). The framework is based on Klauer’s training ap-
proach to inductive reasoning. Although Klauer’s model involves general psychological tasks of inductive reasoning,
the proposed framework provides an integral approach to mathematics inductive reasoning tasks. Specifically, based
on psychological research into children’s thinking in general inductive tasks, this study attempted to (a) develop an
initial framework for describing and predicting how children think in inductive mathematics situations, (b) refine
and validate the framework using a test of inductive mathematics reasoning involving problems that require students
to apply inductive processes.
Thus, the focus of our study was on the integration of various mathematics problem types into one common clas-
sification scheme prescribed by a framework. To this end, in the theoretical background of the study, we first provide
a review of recent research on inductive reasoning, and we then proceed to summarize Klauer’ model. This is followed
by a description of the components and the structure of the proposed framework. In Section 5 some details about the
validation process of the framework are provided. Sections 6 and 7 present the statistical analysis undertaken for the
justification of the components of the inductive reasoning framework and the importance of the proposed framework
in the development of instructional programs in mathematics.

3. Theoretical considerations

Reasoning, in general, involves inferences that are drawn from principles and from evidence, whereby the individ-
ual either infers new conclusions or evaluates proposed conclusions from what is already known (Johnson-Laird &
Byrne, 1993). There are two main types of reasoning, namely deductive and inductive reasoning. Whereas deductive
reasoning denotes the process of reasoning from a set of general premises to reach a logically valid conclusion, in-
ductive reasoning is the process of reasoning from specific premises or observations to reach a general conclusion
or an overall rule. Deductive inferences therefore draw out conclusions which are implicit in the given information,
while inductive inferences add information (Klauer, 2001).
This paper deals only with the mathematical inductive reasoning of students in primary education. While mathe-
matical induction contains information about all instances in a class (e.g., the class of all positive integers) and there-
fore concludes with certainty, the inductive reasoning of primary school students usually refers to the given instances
and does therefore reach conclusions that are not necessarily valid for all possible instances (Sternberg & Gardner,
1983). Nevertheless, in many cases the inductive inferences are valid and provide an important basis for the under-
standing of regularities in mathematics. Regularities as well as uniformities are the basis for the generation of concepts
and categories, which play a fundamental role in our everyday life (Klauer & Phye, 1994). The focus of our study is on
the inductive reasoning required by primary mathematics curricula and by most intelligence tests (e.g. analogies, clas-
sifications, series completion problems, matrices).
Neubert and Binko (1992) connected inductive reasoning in mathematics with finding patterns and relations among
numbers and figures. This idea goes back to work of Pólya (1967), who defined inductive reasoning as the natural
reasoning that allows us to acquire scientific knowledge. Pólya (1967) also considered inductive reasoning in math-
ematics teaching as a method to discover properties from phenomena and to find the regularities in a logical way. In-
ductive reasoning as a method involves four steps: experiences with particular cases, conjecture formulation,
conjecture proof and verification with new particular cases (Pólya, 1967). Based on these steps, Cañadas (2002) de-
veloped a system consisting of the thinking actions of secondary education students when they solve proof problems
and related inductive reasoning to the justification of a statement where inductive reasoning appears.
Although in most elementary mathematics problems, the student’s task is to discover the pattern of relations or
attributes among several elements given in a problem, the stimulation of thinking skills is not pursued explicitly. It
is usually assumed that these skills develop as a by-product of the teaching of content as defined in traditional curricula
for different subjects (Hamers, De Koning, & Sijtsma, 1998). As a result, most students cannot comprehend the basic
concepts of mathematics and have a lot of difficulties in solving problems (Cummins, 1992; Haverty et al., 2000; Koe-
dinger & Anderson, 1998). The latter is demonstrated in a number of studies and especially in international research
evaluations such as OECD (2004) and TIMSS 2003 (Mullis, Martin, Gonzales, & Chrostowski, 2004). To remedy this
evident backwardness, in the present study, we proposed a framework that can be used for both the instruction and the
C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66 57

assessment of inductive reasoning. This framework derives from a range of psychology programs for the training of
thinking developed in the last decade (Hamers et al., 1998; Klauer, 2001).
Klauer’s training program was based on an analytic definition of inductive reasoning (Klauer & Phye, 1994). In
particular, Klauer defined inductive reasoning as the systematic and analytic comparison of objects aiming at discov-
ering similarities and/or differences between attributes or relations (Klauer, 1988, 1992, 1999). This definition results
in the identification of six classes of inductive reasoning problems (generalization, discrimination, cross-classification,
recognizing relationships, differentiating relationships and system construction), according to the kind of the induc-
tive cognitive processes required for their solution. Each problem format is paired with a specific cognitive operation
that is necessary to solve the problem (see Klauer, Willmes, & Phye, 2002).
The six classes of inductive problems are interrelated since all of them can be solved by a core strategy of inductive
reasoning, namely the process of comparing (Hamers & Overtoom, 1997; Klauer, 1988, 1992, 1999). Through com-
paring, an individual compares objects with respect to their common attributes or relations. After evaluating all objects
regarding the similarities and dissimilarities of all attributes or relations, the problem solver is expected to discover the
rule and consequently the solution of a problem. The comparison strategy assumes that the problem solver is able to
recognize all attributes or relations inherent in the problem.
Table 1 presents the six types of inductive reasoning problems, as delineated by Klauer (1999). Table 1 also shows
three classes of tasks for grouping objects on the basis of attributes (generalization, discrimination, and cross-classi-
fication) and three classes of tasks for seriation of objects based on their mutual relations (recognition of relations,
differentiation of relations, and system construction).

4. The proposed mathematics inductive reasoning framework

The literature does not provide any coherent picture of the reasoning processes required for the solution of the prob-
lems included in specific academic subject areas, such as mathematics. For instance, Klauer’s model has been devel-
oped in a general content domain, and it is not clear whether it is applicable to mathematics. Considering the
importance of inductive reasoning in mathematics education (Cañadas, 2002; NCTM, 2000), there is a need for
a framework of cognitive processes that can be used in fostering children’s inductive reasoning ability in mathematics.
In the present study, the proposed framework involved both the mathematical structure of inductive reasoning and the
cognitive processes of inductive reasoning development.
On the basis of the research in psychological inductive reasoning, we assume that inductive reasoning is multifac-
eted and develops slowly over time. To capture the manifold nature of inductive reasoning and its interconnections, we
incorporated three key cognitive processes that are important for solving inductive problems: similarity, dissimilarity,
and integration as they are explained in the next section.
Table 2 specifies the abilities considered to be sufficient to discover a generalization or to refute an overgeneral-
ization. As highlighted in Table 2, these abilities correspond to the processes of similarity, dissimilarity, and integra-
tion and are associated with two levels: the level of attributes and the level of relations. The levels of attributes and
relations specify the aspects which are compared. Similarities and dissimilarities at the nominal level are recognized
by comparing attributes of elements, for example, shape or colour (De Koning et al., 2003). Comparisons at the ordinal
and the ratio level involve relationships among elements, for example, with respect to size and number. In other words,
attributes can be conceived as one-place predicate, while relations can be conceived as two or more-place predicates
(Klauer et al., 2002). For example, consider the following problems:

Table 1
Klauer’s taxonomy of classes of tasks of inductive reasoning
Attributes Relations
Item-class Item-types Item-class Item-types
Similarity Generalization  Class formation Recognition of relations  Order series
 Class expansion  Series completion
 Finding common attributes  Simple analogies
Dissimilarity Discrimination  Identifying irregularities Differentiation of relations  Disrupted series
Dissimilarity and similarity Cross classification  Matrix-figures System construction  Matrix-figures with
complex analogies
58 C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66

Table 2
The inductive processes of similarity, dissimilarity, and integration
Construct Level 1: attributes Level 2: relations
Similarity Recognition of common attributes: Recognition of mathematical relations:
 Finds an attribute that is common among numbers or shapes.  Recognizes the relations that exist between pairs of
 Selects a number or shape which belongs to a group of numbers figures or numbers and tests it on the next pair.
or shapes that share a common attribute.  Completes series
 Compares attributes of numbers or shapes by matching them  Solves analogy problems
to other numbers or shapes that follow the same attribute.

Dissimilarity Recognition of differences in attributes Recognition of differences in mathematical relations

 Finds differences among numbers or shapes with respect  Reorders numbers of a set in order to define a
to attributes correct series.
 Excludes one number so that the remaining numbers
constitute the same pattern of relation.

Integration Recognition of two or more attributes Recognition of two or more relations

 Considers two or more attributes simultaneously  Considers two or more relations in which similarity
or dissimilarity are to be verified

(a) ‘‘Find the common feature of the numbers so that they make up a group: 4, 16, 8, 32, 20, 100, 40’’, and
(b) ‘‘Find the missing number 3/6 ¼ 5/?’’.

In problem (a), students are asked to find the similarity among the numbers by finding a one-place predicate P(x),
which means that each number (x) has the attribute P (i.e., all numbers in the set are multiples of four). Problem (b) is
a simple proportional problem, where students are asked to consider a two-place predicate P0 (x,y). In this case, stu-
dents first need to realize that number x is linked with number y in the first ratio with the relation P0 (y is twice as x) and
then apply this relation to the second ratio.
Comparing attributes or relationships can be directed at finding similarities, dissimilarities, or both (integration).
This results in six (two types of level, attributes and relations, crossed with three types of processes, similarity, dis-
similarity and integration) types of inductive reasoning abilities which need to be developed. Each of the three cog-
nitive processes is examined below and is interpreted in the context of their presentations in the proposed framework.

4.1. The three cognitive processes

In the proposed framework we have attempted to include situations in which the whole set of inductive mathemat-
ics problems such as classification, analogy, series and matrix can be used as the basis for determining inductive rea-
soning (De Koning et al., 2003). The proposed cognitive processes of similarity, dissimilarity and integration refer to
operations and problem solving skills that are suitable for the handling of different types of information, relations, and
problems and reflect the abilities shown in Table 1. The examples of problems in each cell of Table 3 correspond to the
abilities prescribed in Table 2 and have evolved from Klauer’s program on inductive reasoning and from problems
included in most mathematics textbooks.

4.1.1. Similarity
In our study, an understanding of similarity is exhibited at the attribute level by the ability of students to identify
similarities of attributes for different objects (numbers or shapes) and at the relations level by the ability of students to
identify similarities of relations (between numbers or objects). Three typical problem formats are included at the at-
tribute level: class formation, class expansion and finding common attribute problems (Klauer, 1999).
In class formation problems, the student has to note an attribute common to each object or number included in
a problem (see Table 3, problem P1). In class expansion problems, the student has to determine what attribute the
objects of a defined set have in common with only one object of another given set (see problem P2). In finding
C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66 59

Table 3
Examples of problem tasks in each process at the attribute and relation levels
Attributes Relations
Similarity P1: Class formation P4: Complete Series

Which three numbers belong Complete with the right

together? number.
1 5 13 29 …
12 14 10 40 36
P2: Class expansion P5: Ordering series
Which of the numbers below
belongs to the group of Put the numbers in a right
numbers inside the circle? order to make up a sequence
12, 45, 49, 6
5, 25, 15, 10, 20
42 35
21 14

P3: Finding common attributes P6: Analogy

The numbers below constitute a Complete the empty cell with

group because they have the right number
something in common. Find the Number machine
common feature of the Input Output
numbers. 3 7
4, 16, 8, 32, 20, 100, 40 5 ?

Dissimilarity P7: Class exclusion P8: Disturbed series

Find the number that does not (a) Exclude the number that
fit with the others disturbs the sequence.
1 1 2 3 5 7
9 21 12 15 (b) There is a number that
does not belong in the
3 5 9 sequence below. Correct the
wrong number in order to
make up the sequence.
4, 9, 16, 24, 36
Integration P9: Classification tasks P10: Matrices
represented by 2x2, 2x3, 3x3
matrices Complete the cell with the
Write the number 24 in the appropriate number.
appropriate cell.
8 4 2
6, 18, 12 16, 4, 8
24 12 6
15, 9, 3 7, 5, 25
72 36

common attribute problems, the student has to compare the properties of objects of a given set in order to distinguish
the common attribute in some of the given objects (see Table 3, problem P3) (Klauer, 1999; Klauer & Phye, 1994).
At the relational level, similarity includes problems of series completion, problems of ordering series, and analogy
problems (see Table 3). In series completion problems, the solution strategy is related to the sequential check on the
relationships that exist between the pairs of objects in a given series in order to complete the series with a missing
object (see Table 3, problem P4). Ordering series problems require the recognition of a pattern among objects in order
for them to be arranged sequentially (see Table 3, problem P5). Analogy problems require the determination of
60 C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66

a specific relationship between a given pair of objects. The solution strategy consists of mapping the relation onto an
incomplete pair in order to establish a new pair of objects that exhibit the same kind of relation (see Table 3, problem
P6) (Klauer & Phye, 1994).

4.1.2. Dissimilarity
Dissimilarity at the attribute level is related to noting differences among objects with respect to attributes, while dis-
similarity at the relations level is associated with the recognition of differences in relations. Only one typical item format
can be found, namely class exclusion, in the attribute level. In this case the problem requires the identification of the
object that does not fit in with the others (see Table 3, problem P7) (Klauer & Phye, 1994). In the relations level, the
problems can occur in two variations. In the first variation, one object must be excluded from the series as to keep
the relation or the pattern of the other numbers in the series (see Table 3, problem P8a). In the second variation, it is
necessary to correct members of a problem set in order to define a correct series (see Table 3, problem P8b).

4.1.3. Integration
Integration, at the attribute level, involves problems that require students to consider the attributes of at least two
objects simultaneously. All possible combinations will occur: similarity in both features, dissimilarity in both features,
similarity of one of the features with differences in the second feature, and vice versa. The solution strategy requires
a determination of both common and different attributes (Klauer & Phye, 1994).
At the relations level, inductive problems that are included in the integration subset are characterized by finding
either equivalence or dissimilarity of relations. There are at least two relations in which similarity or dissimilarity
is to be verified. Each pair of numbers or shapes has a common relation with at least one other pair and this relation
is dissimilar from a relation between at least one other pair. For a solution, it is necessary to recognize where each
relation is operational and where similar and dissimilar ones exist. That is, it is necessary for students to recognize
both relations and then to locate from available choices the correct object that systematically maintains the relations
constructed among numbers or shapes. In Table 3, problems 9 and 10 are indicative tasks for integration at the attri-
bution and relation levels, respectively.

4.2. The structure of the proposed framework

To determine the structure of such a framework, it is necessary to define precisely what constructs are measured.
Since there was no previous work to guide this process, the basic principles were taken and modified from the theory of
psychological research in the area. Thus, the proposed framework presupposes that the whole set of inductive math-
ematics problems consists of problems that reflect the process of finding similarities and/or differences between at-
tributes and relations (Klauer & Phye, 1994; Van der Vijver, 1991). Specifically, we propose that mathematics
inductive reasoning can be described as a high order construct consisting of six first-order factors, three second-order
factors and one third-order factor. Fig. 1 makes easy the conceptualization of how the various components of inductive
reasoning relate to each other.
Similarity is a second-order factor (F7) consisting of two first-order factors: the similarity of attributes (F1) (Rec-
ognition of attributes) and the similarity of relations (F2) (Recognition of relations). In the same way, dissimilarity is
a second-order factor (F8) consisting of the first-order factors finding differences in attributes (F3) and differences in
relationships (F4). Integration (F9), as a second-order factor, consists of the similarity and differences in attributes
(F5) (Cross classification-attributes) and the similarity and differences in relationships (F6) (Cross classification-re-
lations). Finally, the third-order factor (F10) can be thought of as an abstract representation of the overall inductive
reasoning of students, since it captures the shared variance across similarity (F7), dissimilarity (F8), and integration
(F9) and indicates the multifaceted structure of inductive reasoning.

5. Method

5.1. Participants

Participants were 135 grade 5 students (69 females, 66 males), from seven existing classes of elementary schools in
an urban district of Cyprus. The mean age of students was 10 years and 6 months. The age of students at the time of
C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66 61

F1: Similarity

F7: Similarity

F2: Similarity

F3: Dissimilarity

F10: Inductive
F8: Dissimilarity

F4: Dissimilarity

F5: Integration

F9: Integration

F6: Integration

Fig. 1. The basic theoretical structure of the proposed framework of inductive reasoning.

administering the test ranged from 10 years and 2 months to 11 years. The school sample is representative of a broad
spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds. In each intact class there were students of varying socioeconomic back-
grounds as well as students of different levels of achievement.

5.2. Instrument

Inductive mathematics reasoning was determined using a test that involved all six problem formats. The construc-
tion of the test involved two important phases: (a) Defining students’ abilities as those described in Table 2 and (b)
Assigning these abilities to problem tasks as shown in Table 3. Specifically, each student completed a written multiple
choice test, which contained 18 inductive reasoning mathematics problems. The test included nine problems, which
deal with grouping objects, in terms of their attributes, and nine problems dealing with the seriating of objects on the
basis of their relationships.
Three of the problems required detecting similarity of attributes (class formation items, class expansion items and
items concerned with finding common attributes among objects), three problems required detecting similarity of re-
lationships (series completion, ordering series and analogy items), three problems required detecting differences in
attributes (class exclusion items), three problems required detecting differences in relationships (disturbed series),
three problems required detecting similarity and differences in attributes (classification-attributes problems), and three
problems required detecting similarity and differences in relationships (classification-relations problems). Examples
of all problem formats used in the test are shown in Table 3.
The test was administered to students during regular class time, towards the end of the academic year 2003e2004.
Administration time was approximately 60 minutes. All students, prior to the test, had some experience in solving
simple analogy problems and in finding patterns in numbers and shapes.
62 C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66

5.3. Subgroups analyses

To determine whether the factor structure of the inductive reasoning of students is consistent across groups, the
model was also subjected to a subgroups analysis. Male-only, female-only model fits were tested. Subgroup models
were assessed both for fit and consistency of standardized path coefficients.

5.4. Data analysis

The assessment of the proposed model was based on a confirmatory factor analysis, which is part of a more general
class of approaches called structural equation modeling. Structural equation modeling is a technique that has been
widely used for instrument validation and model testing (Bentler, 1995). EQS6.1 computer software (Bentler,
1995) was used to test for model fitting. In order to evaluate model fit, three fit indices were computed: the chi-square
to its degrees of freedom ratio (c2/df), the comparative fit index (CFI), and the root mean-square error of approxima-
tion (RMSEA). These indices recognized that the following needed to hold true in order to support model fit (Mar-
coulides & Schumacker, 1996): The observed values for c2/df should be less than 2, the values for CFI should be
higher than 0.9, and the RMSEA values should be close to or lower than 0.08. All were calculated by the maximum
likelihood method (Bentler, 1995), and the RMSEA and the CFI were calculated by a robust method, making them
relatively unaffected by violations of the multivariate normal assumption (Bentler & Dijkstra, 2000).

6. Results

The proposed framework consisted of six first-order factors, three second-order factors, and one third-order factor.
The first-order factors represented the cognitive processes required for the solution of inductive mathematics prob-
lems: similarity of attributes (F1), similarity of relationships (F2), differences in attributes (F3), differences in rela-
tionships (F4), similarity and differences in attributes (F5), and similarity and differences in relationships (F6). For
the analysis of the data we reduced the number of raw scores to a limited number of representative scores by selecting
three items for each of the six factors with the highest factor loadings. This was done to increase the reliability of the
measures fed into the analysis and hence to facilitate the identification of latent variables (Bentler, 1995). Thus, factors
F1eF6 were each measured by three tasks. Internal consistency reliability (coefficient alpha) was computed for the
test and for each factor separately. The coefficient alpha was 0.83 for the test with the 18 retained items in the analysis.
Coefficient alphas for the six factors subscales ranged from 0.71 (similarity of attributes) to 0.86 (differences in re-
lations). These alpha values were deemed acceptable and generally support the use of the test, taking into consider-
ation that the increase in sample size and in the number of items led to the improvement in reliability.
The above six factors were hypothesized to construct three second-order factors: the similarity in attributes or in
relationships factor (F7), the differences in attributes or in relationships factor (F8), and the similarity and differences
in attributes or in relationships factor (F9). These second-order factors are postulated to account for any correlation or
covariance between the first-order factors. Finally, the F7, F8 and F9 factors were hypothesized to construct a third-
order factor ‘‘inductive reasoning’’ (F10) that was assumed to account for any correlation or covariance between the
second-order factors.
Fig. 2 outlines the structural equation model with the latent factors (F1eF10) and their indicators. The descriptive-
fit measures indicated support for the hypothesized first, second and third-order latent factors (c2/df ¼ 1.04,
CFI ¼ 0.975, and RMSEA ¼ 0.02). The fit of the model was very good and the values of the estimates were high
in all cases, suggesting that the three-level architecture accurately captures the data. Specifically, the analysis showed
that each of the tasks used in measuring inductive reasoning in mathematics loaded adequately on each of the six hy-
pothesized cognitive processes (F1eF6), as shown in Fig. 2. This finding indicates that similarity of attributes, differ-
ences in attributes, similarity and differences in attributes, similarity of relationships, differences in relationships and
similarity and differences in relationships can represent six distinct functions of students’ thinking in solving inductive
mathematics problems. Factor loadings were large and statistically significant and the patterns of correlations were
logical and consistent. The distinctness of the factors, as shown by the fact that each item loads on only one first-order
factor and all loadings are statistically significant, provides evidence that the tasks used in the test are appropriate
measures of the latent factors. Furthermore, this means that similarity of attributes and similarity of relations are two
different processes which can be developed in programs of inductive reasoning. However, similarity of attributes
C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66 63



0.76* v4
F2 0.65* v5


F3 0.40* v8

F10* 0.99 F8

0.54* v10
F4 0.71* v11


F5 0.47* v14
0.78 0.59*
F9 v15

F6 0.85* v17

Fig. 2. The structure of the proposed framework of inductive reasoning with data parameters. F1eF10 correspond to the factors shown in Fig. 2.
V1eV18 correspond to the problems of the test.

and similarity of relations share some common characteristics which can be captured by the second-order factor called
similarity (F7). In the same way, these results indicate that finding differences in attributes is a process that is quite
different from finding differences in relations and can be measured by distinct items. The regression of these factors on
the ‘‘dissimilarity’’ factor is quite high (0.679 and 0.672, respectively), showing that the dissimilarity, as a second-
order factor, explains much of the covariance of finding differences (F2) in attributes and relations (F5). Finally, in-
tegration is the second-order factor, which expresses the covariation of similarity and dissimilarity of both attributes
and relations (r ¼ 0.805 and r ¼ 0.948, respectively).
64 C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66

These second-order factors were regressed on a third-order factor which concerned inductive mathematics prob-
lems. The regression indices of the similarity, dissimilarity, and integration were very high (0.992, 0.969, 0.986,
respectively) indicating that the three-level model, presented in Fig. 2, is consistent with the theory and can depict
the structure of the inductive reasoning of students.

6.1. Subgroups analysis

Subgroup analyses were conducted to establish the validity of the proposed structure of inductive reasoning in
mathematics. The male-only, and female-only models all fit the data well. The low RMSEA values (0.04 and
0.005, for males and females, respectively) and the high CFI values (0.961 and 0.922, for males and females, respec-
tively) suggest a good fit for the respective models. In addition, all standardized coefficients were reasonable for both
groups and consistent between the overall model, the male-only model, and the female-only model (see Fig. 2, where
the numbers in parentheses show the parameters of male and female students, respectively).

7. Discussion

Inductive reasoning is considered as one of the most important goals of mathematics education, because of its fun-
damental role in the learning of mathematics and in problem solving situations (NCTM, 2000; Serra, 1989). Even
though research has demonstrated the importance of inductive reasoning in mathematics and problem solving, the
literature does not provide any framework of the types of cognitive processes and abilities used for the solution of
inductive mathematics problems. Hence, the goal of this study was two-fold: (a) to develop an initial framework
for describing and predicting the inductive reasoning of primary school students and (b) to validate this theoretical
framework of cognitive processes used in various types of inductive mathematics problems.
In addressing the need for research on children’s thinking that will inform instructional and assessment programs
(Fennema et al., 1996), the present study has developed and validated a framework for systematically describing child-
ren’s inductive reasoning in mathematics. The major constructs incorporated in this framework were the processes
used by Klauer (1999) in defining the inductive reasoning of students. Klauer’s model was modified so as to involve
the constructs of similarity, dissimilarity and integration, which reflected the whole spectrum of inductive reasoning
problems. Two levels, the attribute and the relations levels, representing the context of mathematics inductive situa-
tions were established. At each level, and across all three constructs, learning abilities were developed which have
been used to generate inductive tasks (see Table 1).
The validation of the framework was an evolutionary process which began with the development of the abil-
ities that are needed for the solution of problems of inductive reasoning. These abilities guided the development
of the tasks that were used to assess the inductive thinking of 149 fifth grade students. The proposed structure
proved to be consistent with the data, leading to the conclusion that six distinct cognitive processes aiming at
detecting similarity and/or differences in attributes and relations are used for the solution of inductive mathe-
matics problems dealing with attributes or relationships. Specifically, the framework generated by this study val-
idates the idea that inductive reasoning is a multifaceted construct consisting of three main processes: the
similarity, the dissimilarity, and the integration of similarities and differences. Each one of these processes is
composed of two main levels: the attributes and the relations. Both levels should be taken into consideration
since each one constitutes an important component of inductive reasoning. Although our analysis suggests
that the three cognitive processes generate a coherent picture of children’s inductive thinking at each level,
it is not reasonable to suggest that growth in children’s probabilistic thinking across cognitive processes will
necessarily be uniform. Nor is it appropriate to suggest that the inductive thinking of all students will follow
an ordered progression through the levels of attributes and relations.
In addition to extending the research literature on children’s thinking in inductive reasoning, this research may en-
hance information available to curriculum designers and teachers. Specifically, the framework may enable children’s
mathematics inductive thinking to be described and predicted in a coherent and systematic manner. Taking into
consideration that inductive reasoning ability improves the learning of mathematics, this model offers teachers
a framework of students’ thinking while solving various formats of inductive mathematics problems. It can thus be
used as a tool in teachers’ instruction for organizing instruction and building problem tasks.
C. Christou, E. Papageorgiou / Learning and Instruction 17 (2007) 55e66 65

From an assessment perspective, the framework appears to be valuable in providing teachers with useful back-
ground on students’ initial thinking and in enabling them to monitor general growth in inductive reasoning. Consistent
with the direction advocated by Fennema et al. (1996), the results of this study showed that the abilities mentioned and
the problem tasks involved in the framework could be used to develop an effective program in mathematics inductive
reasoning. Although it was not our intent in this study to make claims about specific aspects of an instructional pro-
gram, the results of the study provide preliminary evidence that the cognitive processes of similarity, dissimilarity or
both can be used by teachers in a way that may enhance students’ inductive reasoning. Accordingly, further research is
needed to evaluate the viability of using the framework for informing inductive reasoning instruction in regular class-
room situations. Such research would also provide opportunities for fine-tuning the framework and making it more
effective for generating instructional programs that build on students’ prior knowledge, foster their thinking through
problem tasks focused on the abilities needed for inductive reasoning, and monitor their understanding.
Although the students who participated in this study represented a broad spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds,
the size of the sample of students may limit the extent to which conclusions about the framework can be applied to
more culturally diverse populations of elementary school students. Further studies are needed to investigate whether
the framework is appropriate for children from other cultural and linguistic backgrounds and to determine the extent to
which it can actually be used to inform instructional and assessment programs in elementary school inductive reason-
ing. Additional research is also needed to extend the framework to incorporate children’s thinking in inductive think-
ing. Such research would result in a more pervasive description of children’s inductive thinking and could be even
more useful in informing instruction in elementary school mathematics inductive reasoning.


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