One of the main reasons that students struggle as they transition from arithmetic to algebra in the middle grades is that they fail to develop the appropriate understanding of the equal sign. Previous research has suggested that students need to move past an operational understanding and develop a relational understanding of the equal sign in order to work with algebraic equations successfully. Other research has suggested that the way that we interpret and utilize the equal sign is based on three main factors: multiple meanings of the equal sign, equation types, and structural conventions. This study extends both areas of research by analyzing two middle grade curricula and looking for what meanings, equation types, and structural conventions appear in both teacher and student materials. The study confirms that students are exposed to three main meanings of the equal sign in the middle grades. The study also describes which meanings of the equal sign are associated with particular equation types and the frequency with which these equation types appear throughout the 7th and 8th grade curricula. Study findings can be used to inform instruction, as they delineate the factors that are attended to while making sense of the equal sign in the middle grades.
College and Department
Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Mathematics Education
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Dickson, Chelsea Lynn, "Making Sense of the Equal Sign in Middle School Mathematics" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 7605.
equal sign, equation types, structural conventions, algebra, middle school mathematics, interpretations of the equal sign