Mathematics Education Research Journal

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 401–421 | Cite as

Introducing linear functions: an alternative statistical approach

  • Caroline Nolan
  • Sandra HerbertEmail author
Original Article


The introduction of linear functions is the turning point where many students decide if mathematics is useful or not. This means the role of parameters and variables in linear functions could be considered to be ‘threshold concepts’. There is recognition that linear functions can be taught in context through the exploration of linear modelling examples, but this has its limitations. Currently, statistical data is easily attainable, and graphics or computer algebra system (CAS) calculators are common in many classrooms. The use of this technology provides ease of access to different representations of linear functions as well as the ability to fit a least-squares line for real-life data. This means these calculators could support a possible alternative approach to the introduction of linear functions. This study compares the results of an end-of-topic test for two classes of Australian middle secondary students at a regional school to determine if such an alternative approach is feasible. In this study, test questions were grouped by concept and subjected to concept by concept analysis of the means of test results of the two classes. This analysis revealed that the students following the alternative approach demonstrated greater competence with non-standard questions.


Linear functions Secondary school Statistical data Multiple representations Technology 


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Copyright information

© Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, Inc. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Damascus CollegeCanadianAustralia
  2. 2.Deakin UniversityWarrnamboolAustralia

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