Supporting Mathematical Literacy Development: A Case Study of the Syntax of Introductory Algebra

  • Danielle Leibowitz University of Illinois at Chicago
Keywords: mathematics, mathematical literacy, syntax, algebra, teaching, education


Existing research on how to develop students’ mathematical literacy skills is limited and offers few explicit recommen- dations regarding verbal and visual cues that can be used by mathematics educators to assist their students in making the connections necessary to develop their fluency in mathematical language, particularly in regard to mathematical syntax. This study examined the methods used by one introductory algebra teacher to support her ninth grade stu- dents’ mathematical literacy skills, specifically examining how she supported their understanding of the mathematical syntax of the distributive property as applied in algebra. Video footage of one class of ninth grade students from an urban high school was analyzed for the teachers’ use of discourse and gestures to support her students’ understanding. Results indicated a consistent pattern in the teachers’ use of dialog, gesture and references to the algebraic expressions. 


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