Advisor

Sean Larsen

Date of Award

Spring 5-26-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Mathematics Education

Department

Mathematics and Statistics

Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 137 pages)

Subjects

Mathematics -- Study and teaching (Higher), Calculus -- Study and teaching (Higher), Inquiry-based learning

DOI

10.15760/etd.2910

Abstract

Making the transition from calculus to advanced calculus/real analysis can be challenging for undergraduate students. Part of this challenge lies in the shift in the focus of student activity, from a focus on algorithms and computational techniques to activities focused around definitions, theorems, and proofs. The goal of Realistic Mathematics Education (RME) is to support students in making this transition by building on and formalizing their informal knowledge. There are a growing number of projects in this vein at the undergraduate level, in the areas of abstract algebra (TAAFU: Larsen, 2013; Larsen & Lockwood, 2013), differential equations (IO-DE: Rasmussen & Kwon, 2007), geometry (Zandieh & Rasmussen, 2010), and linear algebra (IOLA: Wawro, et al., 2012). This project represents the first steps in a similar RME-based, inquiry-oriented instructional design project aimed at advanced calculus.

The results of this project are presented as three journal articles. In the first article I describe the development of a local instructional theory (LIT) for supporting the reinvention of formal conceptions of sequence convergence, the completeness property of the real numbers, and continuity of real functions. This LIT was inspired by Cauchy's proof of the Intermediate Value Theorem, and has been developed and refined using the instructional design heuristics of RME through the course of two teaching experiments. I found that a proof of the Intermediate Value Theorem was a powerful context for supporting the reinvention of a number of the core concepts of advanced calculus.

The second article reports on two students' reinventions of formal conceptions of sequence convergence and the completeness property of the real numbers in the context of developing a proof of the Intermediate Value Theorem (IVT). Over the course of ten, hour-long sessions I worked with two students in a clinical setting, as these students collaborated on a sequence of tasks designed to support them in producing a proof of the IVT. Along the way, these students conjectured and developed a proof of the Monotone Convergence Theorem. Through this development I found that student conceptions of completeness were based on the geometric representation of the real numbers as a number line, and that the development of formal conceptions of sequence convergence and completeness were inextricably intertwined and supported one another in powerful ways.

The third and final article takes the findings from the two aforementioned papers and translates them for use in an advanced calculus classroom. Specifically, Cauchy's proof of the Intermediate Value Theorem is used as an inspiration and touchstone for developing some of the core concepts of advanced calculus/real analysis: namely, sequence convergence, the completeness property of the real numbers, and continuous functions. These are presented as a succession of student investigations, within the context of students developing their own formal proof of the Intermediate Value Theorem.

Persistent Identifier

http://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/17479

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