Original Research

Developing undergraduate engineering mathematics students’ conceptual and procedural knowledge of complex numbers using GeoGebra

Philemon M. Seloane, Sam Ramaila, Mdutshekelwa Ndlovu
Pythagoras | Vol 44, No 1 | a763 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v44i1.763 | © 2023 Philemon M. Seloane, Sam Ramaila, Mdutshekelwa Ndlovu | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 July 2023 | Published: 21 December 2023

About the author(s)

Philemon M. Seloane, Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, Faculty of Science, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Sam Ramaila, Department of Science, Education and Technology Education, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Mdutshekelwa Ndlovu, Department of Science and Technology Education, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

Abstract

This study explored the utilisation of GeoGebra as a modelling tool to develop undergraduate engineering mathematics students’ conceptual and procedural knowledge of complex numbers. This mission was accomplished by implementing GeoGebra-enriched activities, which provided carefully designed representational support to mediate between students’ initially developed conceptual and procedural knowledge gains. The rectangular and polar forms of the complex number were connected and merged using GeoGebra’s computer algebra systems and dynamic geometric systems platforms. Despite the centrality of complex numbers to the undergraduate mathematics curriculum, students tend to experience conceptual and procedural obstacles in mathematics-dependent physics engineering topics such as mechanical vector analysis and electric-circuit theory. The study adopted an exploratory sequential mixed methods design and involved purposively selected first-year engineering mathematics students at a South African university. The constructivist approach and Realistic Mathematical Education underpinned the empirical investigation. Data were collected from students’ scripts. Implementing GeoGebra-enriched activities and providing carefully designed representational support sought to enhance students’ conceptual and procedural knowledge of complex numbers and problem representational competence. The intervention additionally helped students to conceptualise and visualise a complex rectangular number. Implications for technology-enhanced pedagogy are discussed.

Contribution: The article provides exploratory insights into the development of undergraduate engineering mathematics students’ conceptual and procedural knowledge of complex numbers using GeoGebra as a dynamic digital tool. Key findings from the study demonstrated that GeoGebra appears to be an effective modelling tool that can be harnessed to demystify the complexity of mathematics students’ conceptual and procedural knowledge of complex numbers.


Keywords

complex numbers; conceptual knowledge; procedural knowledge; GeoGebra

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

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