The role of fluency in a mathematics item with an embedded graphic: Interpreting a pie chart

Carmel Diezmann, Thomas Lowrie

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    The purpose of this study was to identify the pedagogical knowledge relevant to the successful completion of a pie chart item. This purpose was achieved through the dentification of the essential fluencies that 12'13-year-olds required for the successful solution of a pie chart item. Fluency relates to ease of solution and is particularly important in mathematics because it impacts on performance. Although the majority of students were successful on this multiple choice item, there was considerabledivergence in the strategies they employed. Approximately two-thirds of the students employed efficient multiplicative strategies, which recognised and capitalisedon the pie chart as a proportional representation. In contrast, the remaining one-third of students used a less efficient additive strategy that failed to capitalise on the representation of the pie chart. The results of our investigation of students' performance on the pie chart item during individual interviews revealed that five distinct fluencies were involved in the solution process: conceptual (understanding the question), linguistic (keywords), retrieval (strategy selection), perceptual (orientation of a segment of the pie chart) and graphical (recognising the pie chart as a proportional representation). In addition, some students exhibited mild disfluencies corresponding to the five fluencies identified above. Three major outcomes emerged from the study. First, a model of knowledge of content and students for pie charts was developed. This model can be used to inform instruction about the pie chart and guide strategic support for students. Second, perceptual and graphical fluency were identified as two aspects of thecurriculum, which should receive a greater emphasis in the primary years, due to their importance in interpreting pie charts. Finally, a working definition of fluency in mathematics was derived from students' responses to the pie chart item.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)651-662
    Number of pages12
    JournalZDM - International Journal on Mathematics Education
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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