TY - JOUR

T1 - The relation between graphing formulas by hand and students’ symbol sense

AU - Kop, P.M.G.M.

AU - Janssen, Fred J J M

AU - Drijvers, P.H.M.

AU - van Driel, Jan H.

PY - 2020/10

Y1 - 2020/10

N2 - Students in secondary school often struggle with symbol sense, that is, the general ability to deal with symbols and to recognize the structure of algebraic formulas. Fostering symbol sense is an educational challenge. In graphing formulas by hand, defined as graphing using recognition and reasoning without technology, many aspects of symbol sense come to play. In a previous study, we showed how graphing formulas by hand could be learned. The aim of the study we present here is to explore the relationship between students’ graphing abilities and their symbol sense abilities while solving nonroutine algebra tasks. A symbol sense test was administered to a group of 114 grade 12 students. The test consisted of eight graphing tasks and twelve non-routine algebra tasks, which could be solved by graphing and reasoning. Six students were asked to think aloud during the test. The findings show a strong positive correlation between the scores on the graphing tasks and the scores on the algebra tasks and the symbol sense used while solving these tasks. The thinking-aloud protocols suggest that the students who scored high on the graphing tasks used similar aspects of symbol sense in both the graphing and algebra tasks, that is, using combinations of recognizing function families and key features, and qualitative reasoning. As an implication for teaching practice, learning to graph formulas by hand might be an approach to promote students’ symbol sense.

AB - Students in secondary school often struggle with symbol sense, that is, the general ability to deal with symbols and to recognize the structure of algebraic formulas. Fostering symbol sense is an educational challenge. In graphing formulas by hand, defined as graphing using recognition and reasoning without technology, many aspects of symbol sense come to play. In a previous study, we showed how graphing formulas by hand could be learned. The aim of the study we present here is to explore the relationship between students’ graphing abilities and their symbol sense abilities while solving nonroutine algebra tasks. A symbol sense test was administered to a group of 114 grade 12 students. The test consisted of eight graphing tasks and twelve non-routine algebra tasks, which could be solved by graphing and reasoning. Six students were asked to think aloud during the test. The findings show a strong positive correlation between the scores on the graphing tasks and the scores on the algebra tasks and the symbol sense used while solving these tasks. The thinking-aloud protocols suggest that the students who scored high on the graphing tasks used similar aspects of symbol sense in both the graphing and algebra tasks, that is, using combinations of recognizing function families and key features, and qualitative reasoning. As an implication for teaching practice, learning to graph formulas by hand might be an approach to promote students’ symbol sense.

KW - Graphing formulas

KW - Qualitative reasoning

KW - Symbol sense

U2 - 10.1007/s10649-020-09970-3

DO - 10.1007/s10649-020-09970-3

M3 - Article

SN - 0013-1954

VL - 105

SP - 137

EP - 161

JO - Educational Studies in Mathematics

JF - Educational Studies in Mathematics

ER -