Misconceptions and errors in Algebra at grade 11 levael: The case of two selected secondary schools in Petauke District
Mbewe, Titus Luka
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This study investigated secondary school pupils’ errors and misconceptions in algebra among grade 11 pupils in two selected schools in Petauke district in Eastern Province of Zambia, with a view to exposing the nature and origin of these errors and make suggestions for classroom teaching. The study employed a quantitative and qualitative approach to data collection process, involving the use of pencil-and-paper test and interviews.In the quantitative data, a test was given to 60 pupils which was pre-tested for its validity and reliability. After two weeks, five pupils were interviewed to identify their misconceptions and reasoning processes. Data analysis was largely done through descriptive statistics, and incorporated elements of inferential statistics such as Analysis of Variance (ANOVA ), Post-hoc tests and the Chi-Square tests for in-depth analysis and deeper interpretation of data. The main reason for misconceptions was lack of understanding of basic concepts of the variable. Under algebraic expressions, the main reason for misconception was that they were abstract in nature in that there was not much context attached to it. As for equations, the cause of misconception was the inadequate understanding and misuse of the equal sign which hindered solving equations correctly. The main conclusions drawn from this study is that the misconceptions which pupils experience in algebra are attributed to lack of conceptual knowledge and understanding. The study also found that misconceptions were robust, this simply meant that they could not easily be dislodged and occurred frequently. This was evident from the interviews conducted that pupils appeared to overcome a misconception only to have the similar misconceptions appear later.The study recommended that teachers and pupils should openly talk about misconceptions in the classroom during teaching and learning process. Individual attention to pupils should be given by the teacher in order to understand pupils’ mathematical reasoning.