Original Research

An exploration of learners’ theorems-in-action used in problems on ratio and proportion

Patisizwe T. Mahlabela, Sarah Bansilal
Pythagoras | Vol 36, No 2 | a252 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v36i2.252 | © 2015 Patisizwe T. Mahlabela, Sarah Bansilal | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 January 2014 | Published: 18 December 2015

About the author(s)

Patisizwe T. Mahlabela, Department of Mathematics Education, School of Education, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
Sarah Bansilal, Department of Mathematics Education, School of Education, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa


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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to explore Grade 9 learners’ understanding of ratio and proportion. The sample consists of a group of 30 mathematics learners from a rural school in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Data were generated from their responses to two missing value items, adapted from the Concepts in Secondary Mathematics and Science test set in the United Kingdom over 30 years ago. The study utilised Vergnaud’s notion of theorems-in-action to describe the learners’ strategies. It was found that the most common strategy was the cross multiplication strategy. The data reveal that the strategy was reduced to identifying and placing (often arbitrarily) three given quantities and one unknown in four positions, allowing the learners to then carry out an operation of multiplication followed by the operation of division to produce an answer. The study recommends that the role of the function underlying the proportional relationship should be foregrounded during the teaching of ratio and proportion.

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