A Spreadsheet Approach to Solving Algebra Problems

TítuloA Spreadsheet Approach to Solving Algebra Problems
Tipo de publicaciónJournal Article
Year of Publication1993
AutoresSutherland R, Rojano T
JournalJournal of Mathematical Behavior
Start Page353

Within this acticle we discuss the result of a Mexican/British project which investigated the ways in which pupils use a spreadsheet to represent and solve a range of algebra problems, relating this to the previous arithmetical experiences and evolving use of a symbolic language. Two groups of eight 10-11 year old pupils were studied simultaneously, one in Mexico and one in Britain. This age group was chosen because the pupils had not been involved in any formal algebra instruction. Both groups engaged in two blocks of spreadsheet activities over a period of 5 months with pupils working in pairs for approximately 12 hours of "hands on" computer time. As they worked with the spreadsheet pupils made progress with regards to their initial notion of a functional relationship. They moved from a casuse-effect local numerical notion to the action of a relation governed by a general rule which they could symbolize both in the spreadsheet and in the algebraic language. The spreadsheet environment supported pupils to move from thinking with the specific to the general both in terms of the unknown and the mathematical relationships expressed in the problem. We continue to investigate the ways in which informal approaches can be integrated into a spreadsheet-algebraic approach in our ongoing work with a group of 14-15 year-olds pupils.