A Modeling Perspective on Students' Mathematical Reasoning About Data

Doerr, H. M., English, L. D.
Journal of Research in Mathematics Education

A modeling approach to the teaching and learning of mathematics shifts the focus of the learning activity from finding a solution to a particular problem to creating a system of relationsips that is generalizable and reusable. In this article, we discuss the nature of a sequence of tasks that can be used to elicit the development of such systems by middle school students. We report the results of our reserach with these tasks at two levels. First, we present a detailed analysis of the mathematical reasoning development of one small group of students across the sequence of tasks. Second, we provide a macrolevel analysis of the diversity of thinking patterns identified on two of the problem tasks where we incorporate data from multiple groups of students. Student reasoning about the relationships between and among quantites and their application in related situations is discussed. The results suggest that students were able to create generalizable and reusable systems or models for selecting, ranking, and weighting data. Furthermore, the extent of variations in the approaches that students took suggests that there are multiple paths for the development of ideas about ranking data for decision making.