Algebraic difficulties as an obstacle for high school calculus

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Thesis type
((Education)(Thesis)) M.Sc.
Date created
The mistakes in algebraic manipulations often hinder students’ performance on calculus tasks. This observation is supported by the literature review, revealing that students, who are all supposedly strong in mathematics, are experiencing significant difficulties in their university level calculus course. Several researchers suggest that the biggest hurdle in first year calculus is the significant lack of proficiency with high school algebra. However, most studies do not itemize what such proficiency (or lack of proficiency) entails. As such, the purpose of this study is to identify several of the common algebraic mistakes made by students in a high school calculus course. This research focuses on prerequisite concepts for calculus, which are all covered in the mathematics curriculum for grades 10 – 12. The study identifies a variety of tasks in which algebraic errors hindered a correct solution, even though the calculus part of the problem was completed accurately. As an attempt to rectify the problem, a teaching approach is introduced, which is referred to as “Re-teaching in Context”. This approach is aimed at improving student proficiency with the identified algebraic skills.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Zazkis, Rina
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