Date of Award

Summer 8-9-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Christine D. Thomas, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Stephanie Cross, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Wanjira Kinuthia, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

David Stinson, Ph.D.

Abstract

The study employed Ernest (2006) Theory of Semiotic Systems to investigate the use of and exposure to multiple representations in a 10th grade algebra II suburban high school class located in the southeastern region of the United States. The purpose of this exploratory case study (Yin, 2014) was to investigate the role of multiple representations in influencing and facilitating algebra II students’ conceptual understanding of piece-wise function, absolute-value functions, and quadratic functions. This study attempted to answer the following question: How does the use of and exposure to multiple representations influence algebra II students’ understanding and transfer of algebraic concepts? Furthermore, the following sub-questions assisted in developing a deeper understanding of the question: a) how does exposure to and use of multiple representations influence students’ identification of their pseudo-conceptual understanding of algebraic concepts?; b) how does exposure to and use of multiple representations influence students’ transition from pseudo-conceptual to conceptual understanding?; c) how does exposure to and use of multiple representations influence students’ transfer of their conceptual understanding to other related concepts? Understanding the notion of pseudo-conceptual understanding in algebra is significant in providing a tool for examining the veracity of algebra students’ conceptual understanding, where teachers have to consistently examine if students accurately understand the meanings of the mathematical signs that they are constantly using. The following data collection techniques were utilized: a) classroom observation, b) task based interviews, and c) study of documents. The unit of analysis was students’ verbal and written responses to task questions. Three themes emerged from the analysis of in this study: (a) re-imaging of conceptual understanding; (b) reflective approach to understanding and using mathematical signs; and (c) representational versatility in the use of mathematical signs. Findings from this study will contribute to the body of knowledge needed in research on understanding and assessing algebra students’ conceptual understanding of mathematics. In particular the findings from the study will contribute to the literature on understanding; the process of algebraic concepts knowledge acquisition, and the challenges that algebra students have with comprehension of algebraic concepts (Knuth, 2000: Zaslavsky et al., 2002).

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