Three new ZDM articles

Three new articles have been published online in ZDM lately. One of these articles is entitled The role of fluency in a mathematics item with an embedded graphic: interpreting a pie chart, and it is written by Carmel Mary Diezmann and Tom Lowrie. Here is the abstract of their article:

The purpose of this study was to identify the pedagogical knowledge relevant to the successful completion of a pie chart item. This purpose was achieved through the identification of the essential fluencies that 12–13-year-olds required for the successful solution of a pie chart item. Fluency relates to ease of solution and is particularly important in mathematics because it impacts on performance. Although the majority of students were successful on this multiple choice item, there was considerable divergence in the strategies they employed. Approximately two-thirds of the students employed efficient multiplicative strategies, which recognised and capitalised on the pie chart as a proportional representation. In contrast, the remaining one-third of students used a less efficient additive strategy that failed to capitalise on the representation of the pie chart. The results of our investigation of students’ performance on the pie chart item during individual interviews revealed that five distinct fluencies were involved in the solution process: conceptual (understanding the question), linguistic (keywords), retrieval (strategy selection), perceptual (orientation of a segment of the pie chart) and graphical (recognising the pie chart as a proportional representation). In addition, some students exhibited mild disfluencies corresponding to the five fluencies identified above. Three major outcomes emerged from the study. First, a model of knowledge of content and students for pie charts was developed. This model can be used to inform instruction about the pie chart and guide strategic support for students. Second, perceptual and graphical fluency were identified as two aspects of the curriculum, which should receive a greater emphasis in the primary years, due to their importance in interpreting pie charts. Finally, a working definition of fluency in mathematics was derived from students’ responses to the pie chart item.

The other is written by Alan T. Graham, Maxine Pfannkuch and Michael O.J. Thomas. Their article is called Versatile thinking and the learning of statistical concepts. In the abstract you learn more about the main ideas in this article:

Statistics was for a long time a domain where calculation dominated to the detriment of statistical thinking. In recent years, the latter concept has come much more to the fore, and is now being both researched and promoted in school and tertiary courses. In this study, we consider the application of the concept of flexible or versatile thinking to statistical inference, as a key attribute of statistical thinking. Whilst this versatility comprises process/object, visuo/analytic and representational versatility, we concentrate here on the last aspect, which includes the ability to work within a representation system (or semiotic register) and to transform seamlessly between the systems for given concepts, as well as to engage in procedural and conceptual interactions with specific representations. To exemplify the theoretical ideas, we consider two examples based on the concepts of relative comparison and sampling variability as cases where representational versatility may be crucial to understanding. We outline the qualitative thinking involved in representations of relative density and sample and population distributions, including mathematical models and their precursor, diagrammatic forms.

Finally, George Gadanidis and Vince Geiger have written an article about A social perspective on technology-enhanced mathematical learning: from collaboration to performance. Here is the abstract of their article:

This paper documents both developments in the technologies used to promote learning mathematics and the influence on research of social theories of learning, through reference to the activities of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI), and argues that these changes provide opportunity for the reconceptualization of our understanding of mathematical learning. Firstly, changes in technology are traced from discipline-specific computer-based software through to Web 2.0-based learning tools. Secondly, the increasing influence of social theories of learning on mathematics education research is reviewed by examining the prevalence of papers and presentations, which acknowledge the role of social interaction in learning, at ICMI conferences over the past 20 years. Finally, it is argued that the confluence of these developments means that it is necessary to re-examine what it means to learn and do mathematics and proposes that it is now possible to view learning mathematics as an activity that is performed rather than passively acquired.

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