%A Susac,Ana
%A Bubic,Andreja
%A Vrbanc,Andrija
%A Planinic,Maja
%D 2014
%J Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
%C
%F
%G English
%K Mathematics,Education,algebra,Problem Solving,cognitive development,abstract reasoning,concrete reasoning,strategy
%Q
%R 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00679
%W
%L
%N 679
%M
%P
%7
%8 2014-September-02
%9 Original Research
%+ Ana Susac,Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb,Zagreb, Croatia,ana@phy.hr
%#
%! Development of abstract mathematical reasoning
%*
%<
%T Development of abstract mathematical reasoning: the case of algebra
%U https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00679
%V 8
%0 JOURNAL ARTICLE
%@ 1662-5161
%X Algebra typically represents the students’ first encounter with abstract mathematical reasoning and it therefore causes significant difficulties for students who still reason concretely. The aim of the present study was to investigate the developmental trajectory of the students’ ability to solve simple algebraic equations. 311 participants between the ages of 13 and 17 were given a computerized test of equation rearrangement. Equations consisted of an unknown and two other elements (numbers or letters), and the operations of multiplication/division. The obtained results showed that younger participants are less accurate and slower in solving equations with letters (symbols) than those with numbers. This difference disappeared for older participants (16–17 years), suggesting that they had reached an abstract reasoning level, at least for this simple task. A corresponding conclusion arises from the analysis of their strategies which suggests that younger participants mostly used concrete strategies such as inserting numbers, while older participants typically used more abstract, rule-based strategies. These results indicate that the development of algebraic thinking is a process which unfolds over a long period of time. In agreement with previous research, we can conclude that, on average, children at the age of 15–16 transition from using concrete to abstract strategies while solving the algebra problems addressed within the present study. A better understanding of the timing and speed of students’ transition from concrete arithmetic reasoning to abstract algebraic reasoning might help in designing better curricula and teaching materials that would ease that transition.