Key Idea: Cells in multicellular organisms repeatedly divide to make more cells for growth and repair.

Students are expected to know that:

  1. In multicellular organisms, new cells needed for growth and repair come from the division of existing cells.
  2. Cell division results in the formation of two nearly identical cells from a single original cell.
  3. Individual cells grow by creating new complex molecules that make up the cells’ structures, using molecules from food that enter the cells.
  4. In multicellular organisms, both an increase in individual cell mass and an increase in cell number cause the organism of which they are part to increase in size and mass.
  5. The successive duplication of cells explains how multicellular organisms can develop from a single cell.

Boundaries:

  1. Students are not expected to know that following the initial development of an organism’s body structures, only certain types of cells divide.
  2. They are not expected to know that there are differences in rates of division between types of cells, the length of time different cells are alive, or any other details of the life cycle of cells.
  3. Students are not expected to know the terms "mitosis" or "meiosis" or any of the terminology associated with the phases of cell division.
Percent of students answering correctly (click on the item ID number to view the item and additional data)
Item ID
Number
Knowledge Being Assessed Grades
6–8
Grades
9–12
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CE119002

The difference in size between young children and fully grown adults can be explained by the repetitive process of cell growth and division.

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Frequency of selecting a misconception

Misconception
ID Number

Student Misconception

Grades
6–8
Grades
9–12

CEM024

In the early development of an organism, the organism grows in size and mass without cell division or cell growth (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

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CEM023

In the early development of an organism, cells grow in size but the number of cells remains constant (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

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CEM022

In the early development of an organism, cells that result from cell division do not grow before dividing again (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

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CEM020

Organisms grow by cell division, but the cells do not themselves increase in size or mass (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

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Frequency of selecting a misconception was calculated by dividing the total number of times a misconception was chosen by the number of times it could have been chosen, averaged over the number of students answering the questions within this particular idea.