Journal article

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.


Awarded by Australian Research Council

Funding Acknowledgements

This work was supported by Australian Research Council: [Grant Number DP150103315].