Student Perspectives on Equation: The Transition from School to UniversityReport as inadecuate

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Mathematics Education Research Journal, v20 n2 p71-92 Sep 2008

It has been recognised that many student perspectives on equations and their use of the equals sign have not mirrored those that mathematicians would like to see in tertiary students. This paper tracks transition of understanding of the equals sign by comparing secondary school students' thinking with that of first year university students. We analyse the understanding displayed in terms of properties of the constituent parts of equations, identifying a number of incomplete or pseudo-conceptions that are sometimes influenced by representational aspects of the properties, and other times by apparent over-generalisation of a property. A start is made on constructing a framework for understanding of the mathematical equation object that could assist in the transition from school to tertiary mathematics study. (Contains 8 tables and 14 figures.)

Descriptors: Student Attitudes, Equations (Mathematics), Secondary School Students, Developmental Studies Programs, Mathematical Aptitude, Mathematical Formulas, Mathematics Skills, Comparative Analysis, Foreign Countries, Educational Research

Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia. 67 Kokoda Avenue, Wahroonga 2076, Australia. Fax: +61-9688-5001; e-mail: vp.conferences[at]; Web Site:

Author: Godfrey, David; Thomas, Michael O. J.


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