Procedural and conceptual understandings of the arithmetic mean: A comparison of visual and numerical approaches


Book: 
North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education
Authors: 
George, E. A.
Category: 
Volume: 
1
Year: 
1995
Place: 
Ohio State University
Abstract: 

Although the average, or arithmetic mean, has a rich conceptual meaning, it is often simply defined as the outcome of a procedure. The purpose of this study was to compare the nature and extent of the procedural and conceptual understandings developed by two groups of students who had received different forms of instruction, one based on the traditional numerical algorithm and the other on a visual algorithm. When confronted with tasks varying along several dimensions, students adjusted or extended their basic approach for finding the arithmetic mean in ways that give insight into their understanding of this mathematical concept. While both groups of students showed a degree of understanding and flexibility with the procedure they had been taught, students who had learned the visual procedure showed a deeper conceptual understanding of the arithmetic mean.