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Many teachers have trouble transitioning their students between natural recursive thinking about the data and algebraic notation for representing linear functions (Zazkis & Liljedahl, 2002).

In this study, we interviewed eighteen middle school students to see how they used prior instruction to think about a geometric pattern and construct its corresponding linear equation. All students

were given the same task to complete and were questioned about their thinking during the interview.

We found that the recording of pattern recognition plays a substantial part in helping students recognize and write explicit patterns. By having students decompose the total perimeter into how they saw the pattern growing, students were more successful in making the connection to the numeric representation of growth. In addition, they were better able to explain how they set up the equation, and the connection of each part of the equation to the original pattern.

As teachers work with their students in developing a conceptual understanding of linear equations, it is critical that students are exposed to geometric patterns. The results of this study will help mathematics teacher educators better prepare teachers to develop their students’ develop rich and connected mathematical understanding.


Zazkis, R. & Liljedahl, P. (2002a, March). Generalization of patterns: The tension between algebraic thinking and algebraic notation. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 49, 379-402.

Zazkis, R. & Liljedahl, P. (2002b). Arithmetic sequence as a bridge between conceptual fields.

Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 2(1), 93-120.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.