Exploring algebra as a language-in-use : a study with 11-12 year olds using graphic calculators
The thesis presents a research that focuses on how children's learning processes occur when algebra is introduced as a language-in-use. The research incorporates graphic calculators as a means for providing children with a computing environment where communication is held by using a symbolic language similar in syntax and notation to the algebraic code. The use of calculators is shaped by a set of tasks specifically designed for this study. The tasks are arranged in order to simulate the social processes through which children learn the mother tongue. The design of the learning environment is based on Bruner's research on children's language acquisition. According to this, the major aim of the study is to investigate the ways in which the calculator's symbolic code shapes children's expressions of general relationships, and more specifically the kinds of notions and strategies that children develop through using calculator language. The study seeks for an explanatory framework that might provide a better understanding of the potential of technological resources in the teaching of algebra. The study drew promising results that provide evidence for an alternative approach to teaching algebra. The thesis offers a discussion of the theoretical background and its relationship with the teachina method. It also provides an analysis of children's achievements and difficulties.