Middle school students' interpreting graphical tasks: Difficulties within a graphical language

Lowrie, Tom & Diezmann, Carmel M. (2007) Middle school students' interpreting graphical tasks: Difficulties within a graphical language. In 4th East Asia Regional Conference on Mathematics Education, 18-22 June 2007, Penang, Malaysia.


The representation and interpretation of images and graphics are essential for a numerate populace in an information-burgeoning society. Research on the use and understanding of graphics is quite limited despite the increasing importance of “new” literacies within mathematics education. This paper reports on students’ [aged 10 and 11] proficiency with line and bar graphs [Opposed-position graphics] in an interview situation. Results from the investigation revealed that the students had difficulty in interpreting the graphical information and making sense of the relationships between the mathematical content and the literacy demands within these tasks. Additionally, some students’ explanations suggest that they do not appreciate the relationship between the two axes on the graphs nor the importance of “keys” and other identifiers that link graphical information embedded within the respective tasks. Specific assessment issues are addressed and implications for mathematics practices are drawn out from the research results. This paper concludes with recommendations for explicit instruction, a cautionary note for interpreting graphics items on numeracy tests, and avenues for further research.

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ID Code: 10491
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: graphics, representation, numeracy, assessment, mathematical literacy, graphing, middle school, assessment, graphs
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2007 (please consult author)
Deposited On: 14 Mar 2008 00:00
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2011 15:45

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