Sense making in the context of algebraic activities

Alik Palatnik*, Boris Koichu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This article concerns student sense making in the context of algebraic activities. We present a case in which a pair of middle-school students attempts to make sense of a previously obtained by them position formula for a particular numerical sequence. The exploration of the sequence occurred in the context of two-month-long student research project. The data were collected from the students’ drafts, audiotaped meetings of the students with the teacher and a follow-up interview. The data analysis was aimed at identification and characterization of the algebraic activities in which the students were engaged and the processes involved in the students’ sense-making quest. We found that sense-making process consisted of a sequence of generational and transformational algebraic activities in the overarching context of a global, meta-level activity, long-term problem solving. In this sense-making process, the students: (1) formulated and justified claims; (2) made generalizations, (3) found the mechanisms behind the algebraic objects (i.e., answered why-questions); and (4) established coherence among the explored objects. The findings are summarized as a suggestion for a four component decomposition of algebraic sense making.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)245-262
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Algebraic activities
  • Coherence
  • Integer sequences
  • Project-based learning
  • Sense-making


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