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Approaching Algebra through Sequence Problems: Exploring children's strategies

Evens, Hilary; Houssart, Jenny; (2003) Approaching Algebra through Sequence Problems: Exploring children's strategies. Research in Mathematics Education , 5 (1) pp. 197-214. Green open access

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Abstract

We describe the first phase of a project concerned with the foundations of algebra. Data consists of the responses of 11 year-olds to selected questions from national tests. We focus on one question, which concerns a sequence of shapes and classify successful methods and incorrect solutions. The most common method of successful solution involves some form of table of numbers. Other methods include drawing and use of a relationship. Examination of incorrect answers suggests four common errors. The idea of a ‘best method’ proves problematic, as both the apparently sophisticated and reliable methods sometimes produced incorrect solutions.

Type: Article
Title: Approaching Algebra through Sequence Problems: Exploring children's strategies
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: This article in a peer reviewed journal arises from a project carried out with the Mathematics Test Development Team at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. The project looked closely at answers given by 11 year-olds to mathematics test questions, particularly those with an early algebraic focus. We explore answers to a question about sequences using the ‘Roots of Algebra’ framework put forward by Mason et al (1985). The article explores common errors but concludes that the idea of ‘best method’ for approaching such questions is problematic. Project findings were fed back into the test development project. Extracts from this article were also reproduced in the Primary Mathematics Reflective reader published by Learning Matters in 2005. Following publication we were asked to write a related article on sequences aimed at teachers for a Mathematical Association journal, Mathematics in School. This is a joint article with both authors making a 50% contribution. Reference Mason, J., Graham, A., Pimm, D. and Gowar, N. (1985) Routes to / Roots of Algebra, Milton Keynes: The Open University Press. This is an electronic version of an article published in Evens, Hilary and Houssart, Jenny (2003) Approaching Algebra through Sequence Problems: Exploring children's strategies. Research in Mathematics Education, 5 (1). pp. 197-214. Research in Mathematics Education is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/14794800008520122
Keywords: Teaching methods , Maths , Assessment
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10001393
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