Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The influence of symbols on pre-calculus students' problem solving goals and activities
by Kenney, Rachael H., Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2008, 346; 3329205
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this study is to investigate students’ uses and interpretations of mathematical symbols and the influences that symbols have on students’ goals and activities when solving tasks with and without a graphing calculator. The researcher conducted a multi-case study of pre-calculus college students with a focus on the goals and activities they selected and the anticipations and reflections they made as they worked on math problems in different settings. Data were collected and analyzed under the conceptual lens of an activity-effect relationship framework and a symbol sense framework. Six different student cases were investigated, and both within-case and cross-case data analysis was conducted and reported. The researcher found that some symbols and symbolic structures had strong influences on students’ choices in problem solving. Graphing calculators were used as a way to abandon symbolic manipulation, although very few connections were made between symbolic and graphic or numeric forms. Students demonstrated a mixture of instances of symbol sense as they worked on symbolic mathematical problems.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lee, Hollylynne Stohl, Hollebrands, Karen F.
School: North Carolina State University
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 69/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mathematics education
Keywords: Activity-effect relationship, Algebra, College pre-calculus, Mathematics, Precalculus, Problem-solving, Symbol sense
Publication Number: 3329205
ISBN: 978-0-549-82062-8
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