Mathematical Modeling in the Primary School: Children's Construction of a Consumer Guide

Saturday, October 2, 2010

This paper examines 6th grade children's local conceptual development and mathematization processes as they worked a comprehensive mathematical modeling problem (creating a consumer guide for deciding the best snack chip) over several class periods. The children and their teachers were participating in a 3-year longitudinal teaching experiment in which sequences of mathematical modeling problems were implemented from the 5th grade (10 years of age) though to the 7th grade. In contrast to traditional problem solving, mathematical modeling requires children to generate and develop their own mathematical ideas and processes, and to form systems of relationships that are generalizable and reusable. Reported here is a detailed analysis of the iterative cycles of development of one group of children as they worked the problem, followed by a summary of the mathematization processes displayed by all groups. Children's critical reflections on their models are also reported. The results show how children can independently develop constructs and processes through meaningful problem solving. Children's development included creating systems for operationally defining constructs; selecting, categorizing, and ranking factors; quantifying quantitative and qualitative data; and transforming quantities.


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