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Teaching linear functions in context with graphics calculators: students' responses and the impact of the approach on their use of algebraic symbols.

This study analyses some of the consequences of adopting a functional/modelling approach to the teaching of algebra. The teaching of one class of 17 students was observed over five weeks, with students undertaking both pre- and post-tests and 6 students and the teacher being interviewed individually. Use of graphics calculators made the predominantly graphical approach feasible. Students made considerable progress in describing linear relationships algebraically and commented favourably on several aspects of learning concepts through problems in real contexts. Three features of the program exerted a 'triple influence' on students' use and understanding of algebraic symbols. Students' concern to express features of the context was evident in some responses, as was the influence of particular contexts selected. Use of graphics calculators affected some students' choice of letters. The functional approach was evident in the meanings ascribed to letters and rules. Students were very positively disposed to the calculators, and interesting differences were observed between the confidence with which they asked questions about the technology and the diffidence with which they asked mathematical questions.

Bardini, C., Pierce, R. & Stacey, K. (2004). Teaching Linear Functions in Context with Graphics Calculators: Students' Responses and the Impact of the Approach on Their Use of Algebraic Symbols. International Journal of Science & Math Education, 2(3), 353 - 376.

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