Developing early algebraic reasoning in primary classrooms: Student and teacher perspectives

Grant type: Student (2006-9)
Round: Student 2009
Amount awarded £2,000.00
Completed: November 2010
Leader(s): Ms Jodie Hunter
Organisation: University of Plymouth-Education
Contact Email:
Contact phone: 07795670722
Start Date: 1 September 2009
End Date: 30 July 2010
Interim report received: 5 May 2010
Final report received: 26 August 2010

Significant changes have been proposed for mathematics classrooms of the 21st century in order to meet the needs of a “knowledge society”. Both internationally and within the United Kingdom, the necessity to strengthen the teaching and learning of algebra has been recognised. Recent research (Kaput, 2008; Mason, 2008) advocates teaching number and algebra in an integrated manner. However, within the United Kingdom context it seems that there is little classroom based research completed with primary students which examines how this can be successfully accomplished. A key aim of this study will be to investigate how primary teachers can be effectively supported to develop classroom practices that promote a culture of algebraic activity. During the PhD study, the research student (Jodie Hunter) will work with the participating teachers to develop their ‘algebra ears and eyes’ enabling the integration of algebraic reasoning opportunities into the classroom. Student learning of important algebraic concepts over the school year will be investigated through task based interviews. The second key aim of this study will be to develop an understanding of pupils’ views of learning in classrooms where there is focus on developing algebraic reasoning opportunities. In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the need to understand pupil perspectives and acknowledge their voice to understand schooling experiences. However, it appears that there are few studies which investigate pupil perspectives in primary mathematics classrooms in which an intervention is taking place. Therefore this study will investigate pupil views of their mathematical learning and identity as learners within the classrooms in which the intervention is taking place.

Final report - see right hand box

Significant changes have been proposed for mathematics classrooms of the 21st century in order to meet the needs of a “knowledge society” (Kaput, 2008). Developing inquiry learning communities where all students have opportunities to engage in mathematical practices which underlie algebraic reasoning has been an increasing focus in international research and curricula reforms (Blanton & Kaput, 2002). This project investigated how teachers can develop early algebraic reasoning in communities of mathematical inquiry. The findings indicate the need for teachers to develop a rich understanding of what constitutes early algebra. Through modifying curriculum materials to facilitate opportunities for early algebraic reasoning and by drawing upon spontaneous opportunities during classroom activity, the teachers were able to integrate early algebra into their everyday mathematics teaching. Changes in the ways the tasks were presented to students also supported a shift from finding ‘the answer’ to noticing patterns in the tasks and using these to solve the problems or make conjectures.