Converting among fractions, decimals, and percents: an exploration of representational usage by middle school teachers
Muzheve, Michael Tapfuma
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Using both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analyses techniques, this study examined representations used by sixteen (n = 16) teachers while teaching the concepts of converting among fractions, decimals, and percents. The classroom videos used for this study were recorded as part of the Middle School Mathematics Project (MSMP). The study also compared teacher-selected and textbook representations and examined how teachers? use of idiosyncratic representations influenced representational choices on the number test by the teachers? five hundred eighty-one (N = 581) students. In addition to using geometric figures and manipulatives, a majority of the teachers used natural language such as the words nanny, north, neighbor, dog, cowboy, and house to characterize fractions and mathematical procedures or algorithms. Coding of teacher-selected representations showed that verbal representations deviated from textbook representations the most. Some teachers used the words or phrases bigger, smaller, doubling, tripling, breaking-down, and building-up in the context of equivalent fractions. There was widespread use of idiosyncratic representations by teachers, such as equations with missing or double equal signs, numbers and operators written as superscripts, and numbers written above and below the equal sign. Although use of idiosyncratic representations by teachers influenced representational choices by students on the number test, no evidence of a relationship between representational forms and degree of correctness of solutions was found. The study did reveal though that teachers? use of idiosyncratic representations can lead to student misconceptions such as thinking that multiplying by a whole number not equal to 1 gives an equivalent fraction. Statistical tests were done to determine if frequency of representation usage by teachers was related to the textbook, highest degree obtained by teacher, certification, number of years spent teaching mathematics, number of years teaching mathematics at grade level, number of hours completed on professional development related to their textbook, and total number of days spent on the Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI) professional development. The results showed representation usage was related to all the above variables, except the highest degree obtained and the total number of days spent on the IERI professional development.