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Applying Math onto Mechanism: Investigating the Relationship Between Mechanistic and Mathematical Understanding

Liu, Allison S. (2014) Applying Math onto Mechanism: Investigating the Relationship Between Mechanistic and Mathematical Understanding. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Physical manipulatives are commonly used to improve mathematical understanding. However, it is unclear when physical manipulatives lead to significant benefits. We investigated whether understanding the mechanism of a manipulative would affect mathematical use and understanding. Participants were asked to navigate a physical robot through a maze, and to create a strategy that could navigate differently sized robots through the same maze. Participants with a better understanding of the robot’s mechanism were more likely to utilize complex mathematical strategies during the maze task than participants with lower mechanistic understanding. These participants with higher mechanistic understanding also showed greater understanding of the mathematical relationships within the robot. The study provides evidence for a relationship between mechanistic understanding and mathematical understanding, suggesting that mechanistic manipulatives, upon which mathematics can be applied, may be especially beneficial for fostering mathematical understanding.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Liu, Allison S.asl36@pitt.eduASL36
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSchunn, Christian D.schunn@pitt.eduSCHUNN
Committee MemberGreeno, Jamesjimgrno@pitt.eduJIMGRNO
Committee MemberHirtle, Stephen C.hirtle@pitt.eduHIRTLE
Date: 16 September 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 December 2013
Approval Date: 16 September 2014
Submission Date: 31 January 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 43
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: mechanistic understanding, mathematical understanding, manipulatives, mathematical strategies
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2014 13:39
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2022 17:12


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