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ERIC Number: EJ789430
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Apr
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 6
ISSN: ISSN-1072-0839
Developing Meaning for Algebraic Symbols: Possibilities and Pitfall
Lannin, John K.; Townsend, Brian E.; Armer, Nathan; Green, Savanna; Schneider, Jessica
Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, v13 n8 p478-483 Apr 2008
Developing meaning for symbolic representations is an important part of the middle school mathematics experience for all students. Teachers must not see simply writing symbolic representations as the end goal, but focus on the internal meaning that students ascribe to these symbols. Too often, students lack a deep understanding of the algebraic symbols that they write, failing to recognize the general nature of their representations. The work reported in this article began with representations that were introduced by fifth-grade students as they developed generalizations. Before introducing formal symbolic representations, the students developed their own non-standard means for representing algebraic situations. Through student-to-student and student-to-teacher discourse, meaningful formal representations emerged. As meaning continued to develop, students focused on the generality of their representations. The development of these formal representations can reduce the pitfalls associated with instruction that focuses on manipulating symbols without connection to the meanings behind these symbols. (Contains 7 figures.)
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 1906 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191-1502. Tel: 800-235-7566; Tel: 703-620-3702; Fax: 703-476-2970; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Grade 5; Middle Schools
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A