The use of applets to improve Indonesian student performance in algebra

A. Jupri

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


As a core topic in secondary school mathematics, algebra is recognized as one of the most difficult topics, which leads to learning difficulties worldwide. In Indonesia, algebra performance is an important issue. In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2007 (TIMSS), Indonesian students’ achievement in the algebra domain was poor and was significantly below the International average, i.e., in 36th position out of 48 countries. Two main issues therefore were addressed in this study: the investigation of the why question of the low performance of Indonesian student in the domain of algebra, and of the how question of improving student performance in this domain. As a start to address the first issue, we investigated student difficulties in initial algebra on the topic of linear equations in one variable, related inequalities, and related word problems. To do so, an interview study, involving 51 grade VII Indonesian students – who were about to enter grade VIII (13-14 year-old) – was carried out. The results revealed that transforming process of a problem situation into a mathematical world and vice versa, as well as the reorganization within the world of mathematicsand understanding algebraic expressions concerned two most observed difficulties in initial algebra. Other observed difficulties included the application of arithmetical operations in algebra, the understanding of the different meanings of the equal sign, and the understanding of the notion of variable, respectively. We then used these five categories of difficulties as a point of departure for, and constituted the main frame of reference for, the next partial studies. To investigate the second issue, first we designed an ICT-based teaching sequence in the domain of linear equations, and tested this in a small-scale pilot experiment, which involved 51 grade VII Indonesian students (12-13 year-old) from two classes of two schools. The perspective of mathematization and of operational and structural views on algebraic activity were respectively fruitful to understand student difficulties dealing with word problems and with solving equations which emerged from this study. Next, making use of the pilot study results, we conducted an experimental study, which involved 266 grade VII students (12-13 year-old) from eight classes of four schools, implementing ICT-based approach in algebra teaching. Four algebra applets for algebra, called Algebra Arrows, Cover-up, Balance Model, and Balance Strategy, embedded in the Digital Mathematics Environment, were used in the experiment to foster both procedural skills and conceptual understanding. The experimental study showed that students’ achievement in the experimental group were significantly higher (p<.01) than their peers’ performance in the control group, with a small to medium effect size (d = 0.32). In addition to this, the instrumentation theory proved to be fruitful to investigate the relationship between the students’ use of the digital tools and their conceptual understanding and algebraic skills.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • van Maanen, J.A., Primary supervisor
  • van den Heuvel - Panhuizen, Marja, Supervisor
  • Drijvers, Paul, Supervisor
Award date28 Jan 2015
Print ISBNs978-90-70786-27-4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2015


  • algebra education
  • digital technology
  • applets
  • Indonesia
  • ICT-based approach


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