NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1101433
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-May-10
Pages: 45
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1473-0111
EISSN: EISSN-1473-0111
What Conceptions Have US Grade 4-6 Students' Generalized for Formal and Informal Common Representations of Unknown Addends?
Switzer, J. Matt
International Journal for Mathematics Teaching and Learning, May 2016
Research findings have established that students often struggle with mathematical symbols including common misconceptions for literal symbolic representations of variables but provide little evidence of when or how these misconceptions arise. This article reports findings from a study of grade 4-6 students' conception(s) for various representations of unknown addends [variables] commonly found in US elementary mathematics textbooks. Specifically, thirty-six US grade 4-6 students participated in two semi-structured task based interviews designed to explore their conception(s) of formal and informal representations of unknown addends as revealed by the types of numbers substituted across core mathematical tasks and task types. Findings showed that participants initially demonstrated a natural number bias and upon further questioning a whole number bias. Participants' number substitutions did not include common established difficulties for literal symbols exhibited by students in algebra courses and higher-level mathematics courses. In addition, even when providing the same types of number substitutions, participants attended to various attributes of the different representations for unknown addends.
Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching. 5th Floor Rolle Building, Faculty of Education University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK. Tel: +44-1752-585346; Fax: +44-1752-585344; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Education; Grade 4; Intermediate Grades; Grade 5; Middle Schools; Grade 6
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A