The present research deals with the perception of matter in young children, inquiring if it is perceived as discrete or continuous. It investigates the existence of the intuitive rule “everything can be divided in two” in elementary school children (K-6) by using questions on the subdivision of mathematical and material objects. In addition, we included questions for studying students' conceptions of the particulate nature of matter, such as drawing of objects seen through “magic glasses” or describing the process of dissolving of sugar in water.
The results show that an intuitive rule exists in elementary school children: “everything comes to an end,” meaning that subdivisions must eventually cease. This newly found rule seems to be less frequent as the children mature, parallel to an increase in the appearance of the intuitive rule “everything can be divided in two” and the emergence of the discrete concept of matter. An agglomeration of intuitive rules such as these can probably form the infrastructure for early explanatory frameworks. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed88:594–609, 2004