Interacting with Indeterminate Quantities through Arithmetic Word Problems: Tasks to Promote Algebraic Thinking at Elementary School
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Arithmetic word problemsEarly algebraIndeterminate quantitiesElementary educationProblem posingTranslation
Ayala-Altamirano, C... [et al.]. Interacting with Indeterminate Quantities through Arithmetic Word Problems: Tasks to Promote Algebraic Thinking at Elementary School. Mathematics 2022, 10, 2229. [https://doi.org/10.3390/math10132229]
SponsorshipUniversidad del Desarrollo (Chile) 23.400.173; State Research Agency (SRA) from Spain EDU2016-75771-P PID2020-113601GB-I00
In this study, we analyze how 9–10-year-old pupils work with equations, a central aspect of algebraic thinking in early grades and a cornerstone for more formal learning of algebra. Specifically, we seek: (a) to describe the main characteristics of the tasks that support algebraic thinking through a translation process from arithmetic word problems to algebraic language and vice versa, and (b) to identify how pupils refer to indeterminate quantities in these contexts and what meaning they give to them. The analysis focuses on the semantic congruence of the expressions proposed by them and on the dialogue they held during the translation process. We analyzed the oral discussion in the pools and the written responses to the problem that pupils posed. The results show that arithmetic word problems allow the indeterminate to become an object of thought for pupils, who represent it in multiple ways and refer to it when proposing equations that represent the structure of each problem. Another finding highlights that reflection on the interpretation of the equations supports the identification of two meanings associated with indeterminate quantities, namely, unknown and variable.