Reframing Students' Graph Literacy with a Focus on Students' Thinking
Effective Years: 2023-2028
Graph literacy, the ability to comprehend, interpret, and use graphical representations, is critical for students to learn mathematics, to succeed in STEM coursework and careers, and to engage in informed participation in society. Undoubtedly, understanding and supporting students’ development of graph literacy is an important task educators, researchers, and curricula developers collectively share. Studies have documented secondary school students’ difficulties with graphical representations, yet, there is a need for theories focused on students’ mathematical thinking that can be used by mathematics teachers, teacher educators, and researchers to better support the development of students’ graph literacy in various domains of mathematics (e.g., algebra, statistics, geometry). This project examines middle school students’ graph literacy from an asset-based perspective, documenting the ways in which students think about graphs (i.e., their cognitive strategies and intuitive insights), and the ways in which instruction can build upon that thinking in order to support the development of graph literacy.
Drawing from students’ graphical representations of real-life contexts (e.g., population growth) that span various mathematical domains, this program of research will develop a holistic theoretical framework that can inform mathematics instruction in multiple content areas. The framework will model the cognitive strategies and intuitive insights students build upon when reading and writing graphs, and map how students’ graph literacy changes and develops across the middle grades. Using a design-based methodology consisting of task-based clinical interviews with middle school students, this work will also iteratively design, test, and refine a set of empirically-tested graphing tasks for use by both teachers and researchers, a library of videos illustrating student thinking as they engage in graphing tasks, and publications and curricular materials for teachers and teacher educators.
The award is funded in part by the Discovery Research preK-12 program (DRK-12) which seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. The award is also funded in part by the EDU Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field. Investments are made in critical areas that are essential, broad and enduring: STEM learning and STEM learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development. The program supports the accumulation of robust evidence to inform efforts to understand, build theory to explain, and suggest intervention and innovations to address persistent challenges in education.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.