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Using cognitive conflict to promote a structural understanding of grade 11 algebra

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(Education)(Thesis) M.Sc.
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This study examines the effect of cognitive conflict interventions on high school students' understanding of algebra. The concepts of algebra can be conceived of as both processes to carry out, and objects that can be used in higher processes. I examine this double nature with reference to several epistemological frameworks and describe a conceptual divide between procedural and structural understanding. I formulated a system to analyze student understanding and developed cognitive conflict instruments intended to promote structural understanding. Both the system and instrument involve questions that contain 'procedural traps'. I carried out interventions and tested the students for any change in understanding. The majority of the students had a procedural understanding before the interventions, and a structural understanding afterwards. I concluded that cognitive conflict interventions could effect a significant advance to structural understanding on the part of a majority of the students, but were not effective with the weakest students.
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