Journal article

Students' understanding of algebraic notation: 11-15

M Macgregor, K Stacey

Educational Studies in Mathematics | Published : 1997

Abstract

Research studies have found that the majority of students up to age 15 seem unable to interpret algebraic letters as generalised numbers or even as specific unknowns. Instead, they ignore the letters, replace them with numerical values, or regard them as shorthand names. The principal explanation given in the literature has been a general link to levels of cognitive development. In this paper we present evidence for specific origins of misinterpretation that have been overlooked in the literature, and which may or may not be associated with cognitive level. These origins are: intuitive assumptions and pragmatic reasoning about a new notation, analogies with familiar symbol systems, interfere..

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