A study of changes in students' understanding of three algebraic concepts: variables, expressions, and equality
Cushman, Jane Ries
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This study of ASK ME-Algebra, an online high school algebra curriculum, focuses on students acquiring knowledge about the concepts of variables, expressions, and equality. The Online Mathematics Initiative (OMI) of the Distance Education Center (DEC) of the University of Texas researched and developed the algebra curriculum to address and encompass both Texas’s and national standards for high school algebra. Twelve school districts in Texas used ASK ME-Algebra in classrooms and with independent learners for credit recovery1. Designed by researchers as a functions-based and problem-based instructional approach to algebra, ASK ME-Algebra assists students 1 Credit recovery is for students who have failed a course. The students take the course again but in a shorter time-period (i.e. one semester instead of a whole school year or two semesters). to gain an understanding of algebra concepts (i.e. functions, linear functions, linear equations and systems of equations). The methodology chosen for this study was a design experiment since it aligns with the constructivist viewpoint of the researcher. This design experiment will show that ASK ME-Algebra increases students’ understanding of the concepts of variables, expressions, and equality without structured instruction. The teacher of the classroom negatively affected the implementation of the curriculum by using structured instruction during the last two-thirds of the course. The data for this study includes responses to pre- and post-algebra tests, comparative data from ninth grade Algebra I students, observations, all of the treatment groups’ saved online work, and periodic interviews of the treatment group from a central Texas alternative high school using the online curriculum as independent learners.