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Understandings of Function Notation and its Impacts on Student Approaches to Problem Solving

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The focus of this study was to examine how a student's understanding of function notation impacted their approaches to problem solving. Before this question could be answered, students' understandings about function notation had to be determined. The goal of the

The focus of this study was to examine how a student's understanding of function notation impacted their approaches to problem solving. Before this question could be answered, students' understandings about function notation had to be determined. The goal of the first part of the data was to determine the norm of understanding for function notation for students after taking a college level pre-calculus class. From the data collected, several ideas about student understanding of notation emerged. The goal of the second data set was to determine if student understanding of notation impacted their reasoning while problem solving, and if so, how it impacted their reasoning. Collected data suggests that much of what students "understand" about function notation comes from memorized procedures and that the notation may have little or no meaning for students in context. Evidence from this study indicates that this lack of understanding of function notation does negatively impact student's ability to solve context based problems. In order to build a strong foundation of function, a well-developed understanding of function notation is necessary. Because function notation is a widely accepted way of communicating information about function relationships, understanding its uses and meanings in context is imperative for developing a strong foundation that will allow individuals to approach functions in a meaningful and productive manner.

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2015-05

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Exploring Student Thinking in Novel Linear Relationship Problems

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This is a report of a study that investigated the thinking of a high-achieving precalculus student when responding to tasks that required him to define linear formulas to relate covarying quantities. Two interviews were conducted for analysis. A team of

This is a report of a study that investigated the thinking of a high-achieving precalculus student when responding to tasks that required him to define linear formulas to relate covarying quantities. Two interviews were conducted for analysis. A team of us in the mathematics education department at Arizona State University initially identified mental actions that we conjectured were needed for constructing meaningful linear formulas. This guided the development of tasks for the sequence of clinical interviews with one high-performing precalculus student. Analysis of the interview data revealed that in instances when the subject engaged in meaning making that led to him imagining and identifying the relevant quantities and how they change together, he was able to give accurate definitions of variables and was usually able to define a formula to relate the two quantities of interest. However, we found that the student sometimes had difficulty imagining how the two quantities of interest were changing together. At other times he exhibited a weak understanding of the operation of subtraction and the idea of constant rate of change. He did not appear to conceptualize subtraction as a quantitative comparison. His inability to conceptualize a constant rate of change as a proportional relationship between the changes in two quantities also presented an obstacle in his developing a meaningful formula that relied on this understanding. The results further stress the need to develop a student's ability to engage in mental operations that involve covarying quantities and a more robust understanding of constant rate of change since these abilities and understanding are critical for student success in future courses in mathematics.

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2014-05