The use of letters as a variable is one of the obstacles faced by students as they make the transition from arithmetic to letter-symbolic algebra. Primary students in Singapore are in a unique position as they are presented with opportunities, right across their primary years, to work with less abstract representations of numbers. These students are taught to use a set of proportionately sized rectangles to model arithmetic as well as algebra word problems. fMRI studies show that adults used similar processes in generating the rectangles and letters used to solve algebraword problems. How do primary students perceive these model representations? Ten primary 5 students were interviewed on a one-to-one basis after they had completed a series of mathematics tasks. The written and interview data suggest that these students’ familiarity with the model method had enabled them to construct a new meaning of how numbers could be represented. This finding may offer educators an alternative route to facilitate the transition from arithmetic to letter-symbolic algebra.

THE MODEL METHOD

METHOD

RESULTS

CONCLUSIONS

REFERENCES

APPENDIX