Hidden lessons

Amy B. Ellis and Paul Grinstead have written an article that was published in The Journal of Mathematical Behavior last week. The article is entitled Hidden lessons: How a focus on slope-like properties of quadratic functions encouraged unexpected generalizations. Here is a copy of their article abstract:

This article presents secondary students’ generalizations about the connections between algebraic and graphical representations of quadratic functions, focusing specifically on the roles of the parameters a, b, and c in the general form of a quadratic function, y = ax2 + bx + c. Students’ generalizations about these connections led to a surprising finding: two-thirds of the students interviewed identified the parameter a as the “slope” of the parabola. Analysis of qualitative data from interviews and classroom observations led to the development of three focusing phenomena in the classroom environment that inadvertently supported a focus on slope-like properties of quadratic functions: (a) the use of linear analogies, (b) the rise over run method, and (c) viewing a as dynamic rather than static.