You are on page 1of 4

Key understandings/concepts/ideas that students

are required to learn about algebra.


Wilkie and Clarke (2015) describe algebra as providing the knowledge
and skills that allows one to analyse and describe patterns. According
to Wilkie (2014) generalisation involves the study of relationships that
exist between various variables and quantities. Brown (2008) further
extends on the definition, explaining how generalisation can be
considered as the ability to identify the general from the particular.
Warren and Cooper (2007) argue that generalisation is a key aspect of
learning and exploring algebra, as it allows you to not only determine
the relationship between two or more variables, but also provides you
with the knowledge to express this relationship mathematically.
One concept that Steinberg, Sleeman and Ktorza (1990) define as
crucial to understanding algebra is equality. Likewise, Brown (2008)
explains that through the develop of students understanding of
equality, they are able to better understand and identify equivalence in
various responses to a problem. This is similar to Warren, Mollinson
and Oestrich (2009) who explain how an understanding of equivalence
equips students with the skills to determine if two expressions are
equivalent.
Lannin (2005) described patterns as powerful instruments for
developing understanding relations between variables, and the
mathematical functions that they represent. Similarly, Wilkie and Clarke
(2015) explained how exploring and creating patterns provides
students with the opportunity to develop language that enables them to
describe patterns, which can then be extended on to using symbolic
representations. Wilkie and Clarke (2015) also describe how patterns
are crucial in students development of functional thinking, and their
ability to analyse and describe variables.

Word count: 202

Key strategies, skills, ways of thinking and


working mathematically that are appropriate to
algebra.
1

Algebraic thinking has been described by Booker and


Windsor (2010) as encompassing all dimensions of mathematics, as it
is essential for conceptual understanding, fluency and reasoning.
Booker and Windsor (2010) explain that through the development of
students algebraic thinking, students are able to engage more
meaningfully with mathematics, as students are able to move beyond
the procedures often associated with algebra. However, Warren et al.
(2009) believe that a deep understanding of algebra is a result of the
combination of both algebraic and arithmetic thinking. Warren et al.
(2009) explain how the combination of arithmetic and algebraic thinking
work together to enhance students ability engage in algebra.

1 Another type of thinking that Wilkie (2014) regards as essential is


functional thinking, as she explains how functional thinking relates to
the notion of change, and noticing the relationship that exists between
the various quantities. Research conducted by Brown (2008) found that
further skills that enhance students ability to understand the
relationships between variables, were reversibility, generalisation and
flexibility. Brown (2008) explains how these skills allow students to
engage in investigations and problem solving, as they provide them
with the ability to perceive different ways of solving a problem, as well
as different ways of approaching a problem. In contrast to this, Lannin
(2005) described justification as a crucial component of algebra and
comprehending generalisation. Lannin (2005) explains how through
justification, students are able to make links between algebraic rules
and generalisations.
2 Visualisation is a skill that Wilkie and Clarke (2015) believe is essential
when learning and engaging with algebra. Wilkie and Clarke (2015)
explain how the ability to visualise allows students to generalise
explicitly, as it not only allows students to organise the information
given but is also an important factor for the development of a solution.
2 Word count: 245

Key teaching strategies that a teacher is encouraged


to enact when teaching algebra.
One strategy that has been supported by research of Rivera and
Becker (2005) is the idea of encouraging your students to use multiple
representations when solving problems. Wilkie and Clarke (2015)
further supports this, explaining how solving problems in a variety of
ways is a crucial part in preparing students to think algebraically as it
provides opportunities for them to generalise and verbalise their
solutions.
Book and Windsor (2015) believe that teachers should present algebra
using a problem solving approach, as it not only provides students with
the opportunity to develop key ideas and understandings, but also
teachers with the opportunity to tailor the tasks to suit the different
objective and needs of the students. Similarly, Day (2015) explains how
an investigation style allow students to actually see purpose in algebra,
making their learning not only more accessible but also more
meaningful.
Booker and Windsor (2010) believe that the teaching of algebra should
involve range of problems that are similar, as opposed to a series of
questions that are unrelated. Brown (2008) also explained how this
approach assists students to develop flexibility when approaching
algebraic problems.
Day (2015) suggests that teachers put emphasis on the explanation
and justification of answers, rather than the outcome of finding
answers. Day (2015) believe that by employing this focus teachers are
promoting the development of algebraic reasoning. Warren et al.
(2009) also found that focusing on the process of solving mathematical
problems helps students to develop algebraic thinking.
Day (2015) also advocates student collaboration when engaging with
algebra, as he believes that through communicating and collaborating
students are given the opportunity to clarify ideas and extend on their
knowledge and skills. In contrast, Brown (2008) believes that is it
crucial that students are given the opportunity to think individually, and
after this engage with fellow peers.

Word count: 256

Common misconceptions in algebra that


teachers should be aware of.
1 A misconception that Falkner, Levi and Carpenter (1999) have
identified through their research is students perception of the equality,
and in particular the equal sign. Knuth, Stephen, McNeil and Alabali
(2006) believe that students can often develop an operational view in
which they perceive that the function of the equals sign is to present
the answer. Falkner et al. (1999) explains how in order to address this
misconception, teachers must provides students with experiences that
allow them to develop an understanding that the equals sign
represents a relationship between different values.
2 Another misconception that Cangelosi, Madrid, Cooper, Olsen and
Hartter (2013) identify was the role of negative signs within algebraic
expressions. Cangelosi et al. (2013) found that students often
presented a limited understanding of the negative sign, as they found
that often students fail to perceive the sign as part of the term, and
instead viewed it as a sign of subtraction. Similarly Hewitt (2012) found
that due to misconceptions related to the role of terms within algebraic
expressions, students face difficulty treating expressions as objects
and instead believe the goal is to collapse these expressions to a
single answer.
2 Hewitt (2012) also expressed difficulties that students experience when
interpreting and expressing variables, and the use of letters to do so.
Hewitt (2012) found that often students develop the misconception that
any meaning can be given to the letters, which leads an inability to
effectively generalise.
Word count: 198