International Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 191-215

First online:

Designing Spreadsheet-Based Tasks for Purposeful Algebra

  • Janet AinleyAffiliated withInstitute of Education, University of Warwick Email author 
  • , Liz BillsAffiliated withSchool of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of East Anglia
  • , Kirsty WilsonAffiliated withInstitute of Education, University of Warwick

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We describe the design of a sequence of spreadsheet-based pedagogic tasks for the introduction of algebra in the early years of secondary schooling within the Purposeful Algebraic Activity project. This design combines two relatively novel features to bring a different perspective to research in the use of spreadsheets for the learning and teaching of algebra: the tasks which are purposeful for pupils and contain opportunities to appreciate the utility of algebraic ideas, and careful matching of the affordances of the spreadsheet to the algebraic ideas which are being introduced. Examples from two tasks are used to illustrate the design process. We then present data from a teaching programme using these tasks to highlight connections between aspects of the task design and the construction of meanings for variable.


algebra spreadsheets task design variable