The effects of constructivist teaching approaches on middle school students' algebraic understanding
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The goal in mathematics has shifted towards an emphasis on both procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding. The importance of gaining procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding is aligned with Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000), which encourages fluency, reasoning skills, and ability to justify decisions. Possession of only procedural skills will not prove useful to students in many situations other than on tests (Boaler, 2000). Teachers and researchers can benefit from this study, which examined the effects of representations, constructivist approaches, and engagement on middle school students' algebraic understanding. Data from an algebra pretest and posttest, as well as 16 algebra video lessons from an NSF-IERI funded project, were examined to determine occurrences of indicators of representations, constructivist approaches, and engagement, as well as student understanding. A mixed methods design was utilized by implementing multilevel structural equation modeling and constant comparison within the analysis. Calculation of descriptive statistics and creation of bar graphs provided more detail to add to the findings from the components of the statistical test and qualitative comparison method. The results of the final structural equation model revealed a model that fit the data, with a non-significant model, p > .01. The new collectively named latent factor of constructivist approaches with the six indicators of enactive representations, encouragement of student independent thinking, creation of problem-centered lessons, facilitation of shared meanings, justification of ideas, and receiving feedback from the teacher was shown to be a significant predictor of procedural knowledge (p < .05) and conceptual understanding (p < .10). The indicators of the original latent factor of constructivist approaches were combined with one indicator for representations and two indicators for engagement. Constant comparison revealed similar findings concerning correlations among the indicators, as well as effects on student engagement and understanding. Constructivist approaches were found to have a positive effect on both types of student learning in middle school mathematics.
Constructivist teaching approaches
Ross, Amanda Ann (2006). The effects of constructivist teaching approaches on middle school students' algebraic understanding. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from