Algebra uses symbols for generalizing arithmetic. These symbols have different meanings and interpretations in different situations. Students have different perceptions about these symbols, letters and signs. Despite the vast research by on the students‟ difficulties in understanding letters in Algebra, the overall image that emerges from the literature is that students have misconceptions of the use of letters and signs in Algebra. My empirical research done through this study has revealed that the students have many misconceptions in the use of symbols in Algebra which have bearings on their learning of Algebra. It appears that the problems encountered by the students appeared to have connection with their lack of conceptual knowledge and might have been result of teaching they experience in learning Algebra at the secondary schooling level. Some of the findings also suggest that teachers appeared to have difficulties with their own content knowledge. Here one can also see that textbooks are also not presenting content in such an elaborate way that these could have provided sufficient room for students to develop their relational knowledge and conceptual understanding of Algebra. Moreover, this study investigates students‟ difficulty in translating word problems in algebraic and symbolic form. They usually follow phrase- to- phrase strategy in translating word problem from English to Urdu. This process of translating the word problem from English to their own language appears to have hindered in the correct use of symbols in Algebra. The findings have some important implications for the teaching of Algebra that might help to develop symbol sense in both students and teachers. By the help of symbol sense, they can use symbols properly; understand the nature of symbols in different situations, like, in functions, in variables and in relationships between algebraic representations. This study will contribute to future research on similar topics.
Mashooque Ali Samo has written an article called Students’ Perceptions Abouth the Symbols, Letters and Signs in Algebra and How Do These Affect Their Learning of Algebra: A Case Study in a Govenrment Girls’ Secondary School, Karachi. This article pays attention to misconceptions that arise in Algebra, and it has been published in International Journal for Mathematics Teaching and Learning. Here is the article abstract: