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Asymptotes and Asymptotic Behaviour in Graphing Functions and Curves: an Analysis of the Croatian Upper Secondary Education Within the Anthropological Theory of the Didactic

Abstract

In this paper, we will examine the mathematical knowledge that prospective mathematics teachers draw upon when graphing function graphs and curves, with a special focus on the occurrence of asymptotes. Three tasks which involved a graph of a rational and exponential function and a hyperbola as a conic section were designed and administered to students. We performed this study within the framework of Anthropological Theory of the Didactic to examine the relationship of prospective mathematics teachers’ available knowledge with the knowledge to be taught in upper secondary schools and scholarly knowledge relevant for teaching. By studying prospective mathematics teachers’ knowledge, we aim to understand the feasibility of our proposed reference epistemological model for graphing functions and curves in the upper secondary school. Our findings reveal students’ shortcomings with respect to the choice of the appropriate graphing praxeology for given tasks. Students’ graphing strategies relied mostly on plotting points obtained by evaluating a formula, which is a dominant approach in the textbooks we analysed. Plotting points did not lead students to examine asymptotic behaviour, along with the observed monotonicity of a function. Their graphing strategies were found to be predominantly dependent on the particular setting in which the task was presented. Additionally, in our study, the idea of an asymptote as a tangent line at infinity in the geometric setting was questioned.

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Correspondence to Ana Katalenić.

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Katalenić, A., Milin Šipuš, Ž. & Čižmešija, A. Asymptotes and Asymptotic Behaviour in Graphing Functions and Curves: an Analysis of the Croatian Upper Secondary Education Within the Anthropological Theory of the Didactic. Int J of Sci and Math Educ 18, 1185–1205 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-019-10020-5

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Keywords

  • Asymptotes and asymptotic behaviour
  • Anthropological Theory of the Didactic (ATD)
  • Didactic transposition
  • Function graph
  • Secondary mathematics education