Symbols: the challenge of subscripts
Meredith Begg, Robyn Pierce
International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology | TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD | Published : 2020
Symbols are a cornerstone of the written language of mathematics and mathematical sciences. However, variations in their use pose a constant challenge to students. This paper reports data from first year undergraduate students studying mathematics, statistics and/or physics collected using surveys and interviews. It became clear that multiple uses of a single symbol across topics and across STEM subjects can be problematic for students. In particular our attention was drawn to misinterpretation of subscripts. Without explicit attention, educators of mathematics and mathematical science subjects should not assume that students correctly interpret symbols in a given context.