Original Research

An analysis of the influence of question design on learners’ approaches to number pattern generalisation tasks

Duncan Samson, Marc Schäfer
Pythagoras | Issue 66 | a79 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v0i66.79 | © 2007 Duncan Samson, Marc Schäfer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 October 2007 | Published: 14 October 2007

About the author(s)

Duncan Samson, Rhodes University, South Africa
Marc Schäfer, Rhodes University, South Africa

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This paper reports on a study of the extent to which question design affects the solution strategies adopted by children when solving linear number pattern generalisation tasks presented in pictorial and numeric contexts. The research tool comprised a series of 22 pencil-and-paper exercises based on linear generalisation tasks set in both numeric and two-dimensional pictorial contexts. The responses to these linear generalisation questions were classified by means of stage descriptors as well as stage modifiers. The method or strategy adopted was analysed and classified into one of seven categories. In addition, a meta-analysis focused on the formula derived for the nth term in conjunction with its justification. The results of this study strongly support the notion that question design can play a critical role in influencing learners’ choice of strategy and level of attainment when solving pattern generalisation tasks. An understanding of the importance of appropriate question design has direct pedagogical application within the context of the mathematics classroom.


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