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Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 245–278 | Cite as

Reinventing fractions and division as they are used in algebra: the power of preformal productions

  • Frederick Peck
  • Michael Matassa
Article

Abstract

In this paper, we explore algebra students’ mathematical realities around fractions and division, and the ways in which students reinvented mathematical productions involving fractions and division. We find that algebra students’ initial realities do not include the fraction-as-quotient sub-construct. This can be problematic because in algebra, quotients are almost always represented as fractions. In a design experiment, students progressively reinvented the fraction-as-quotient sub-construct. Analyzing this experiment, we find that a particular type of mathematical production, which we call preformal productions, played two meditational roles: (1) they mediated mathematical activity, and (2) they mediated the reinvention of more formal mathematical productions. We suggest that preformal productions may emerge even when they are not designed for, and we show how preformal productions embody historic classroom activity and social interaction.

Keywords

Realistic mathematics education RME Fractions Division Algebra Preformal productions 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the students in the class, from whom we learned so much, and to  David Webb for his thoughtful comments on our study and on multiple drafts of this article. We also gratefully acknowledge the anonymous reviewers whose comments significantly improved the article.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematical SciencesUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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