Learners’ Difficulties with Quantitative Units in Algebraic Word Problems and the Teacher’s Interpretation of those Difficulties

  • John OliveEmail author
  • Günhan Çağlayan


This study examines 8th grade students’ coordination of quantitative units arising from word problems that can be solved via a set of equations that are reducible to a single equation with a single unknown. Along with Unit-Coordination, Quantitative Unit Conservation also emerges as a necessary construct in dealing with such problems. We base our analysis within a framework of quantitative reasoning (Thompson, 1988; 1989; 1993; 1995) and a theory of children’s units-coordination with different levels of units (Steffe 1994) that both encompass and are extended by these two constructs. Our data consist of videotaped classroom lessons, student interviews, and teacher interviews. Ongoing analyses of these data were conducted during the teaching sequence. A retrospective analysis using constant comparison methodology was then undertaken during which the classroom video, related student interviews, and teacher interviews were revisited many times in order to generate a thematic analysis. Our results indicate that the identification and coordination of the units involved in the problem situation are critical aspects of quantitative reasoning and need to be emphasized in the teaching-learning process. We also concluded that unit coordination and unit conservation are cognitive prerequisites for constructing a meaningful algebraic equation when reasoning quantitatively about a situation.

Key words

algebraic reasoning linear equations quantitative reasoning quantitative units representations units-coordination 


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Copyright information

© National Science Council, Taiwan 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematics and Science EducationThe University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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