Relational thinking: The bridge between arithmetic and algebra

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Ayhan Kızıltoprak Nilüfer Yavuzsoy Köse


The purpose of this study is to investigate the development of relational thinking skill, which is an important component of the transition from arithmetic to algebra, of 5th grade students. In the study, the qualitative research method of teaching experiment was used. The research data were collected from six secondary school 5th grade students by means of clinical interviews and teaching episodes. For observing the development of relational thinking, pre and post clinical interviews were also conducted before and after the eight-session teaching experiment. Qualitative analysis of the research data revealed that the relational thinking skills of all the students developed. It was also found that there was an interaction between the development of fundamental arithmetic concepts and relational thinking; that the students developed concepts related to arithmetical operations such as addend and sum; minuend, subtrahend and difference; multiplicator and product; and dividend, divisor and quotient. Moreover, students were able to use these concepts effectively although they failed to provide formal explanations about the relations between them. In addition, the students perceived the equal sign not only finding a result but also as a symbol used to establish a relation between operations and expressions.


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KIZILTOPRAK, Ayhan; YAVUZSOY KÖSE, Nilüfer. Relational thinking: The bridge between arithmetic and algebra. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, [S.l.], v. 10, n. 1, p. 131-145, oct. 2017. ISSN 1307-9298. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 oct. 2017.


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