SA Journal of Education, Vol 39, No 1 (2019)

Pre-service mathematics teachers’ mental constructions when using Cramer’s rule

Zanele Ndlovu, Deonarain Brijlall


This study explored the mental constructions displayed by pre-service mathematics teachers (PMTs) when applying Cramer’s rule. The aim was to reveal the character of mental constructions made around the nature of the solution set of equations and the role of parameters in the solution of equations with parametric coefficients. These mental constructions occur within the Action-Process-Object-Schema (APOS) theory. In this study, data was generated from 31 first year pre-service teachers by means of an activity sheet and interviews. The interviews were used to clarify pre-service teachers’ responses to tasks from the activity sheet. The findings revealed that many PMTs displayed procedural understanding of Cramer’s rule. It was also found that they understood what the solution of system of linear equations means. This meant that they were operating at the action stage, in terms of APOS. Additionally, it revealed that the lack of construction of related schemata negatively impacted the PMTs’ attempt to construct the necessary mental constructions. Therefore, the researchers provided the genetic decomposition (GD) for the use of Cramer’s rule to assist teacher educators to analyse the mental constructions of students. This study explored a new application of APOS theory. Analysing the mental constructions of students by means of research is intended to assist in designing alternative teaching strategies. In this way, this study makes a significant contribution to the solution of system of equations pedagogy.

ORCiD iDs of authors:
Zanele Ndlovu -
Deonarain Brijlall -

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