Geometric and algebraic approaches in the concept of complex numbers
SourceInternational Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology
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This study explores pupils’ performance and processes in tasks involving equations and inequalities of complex numbers requiring conversions from a geometric representation to an algebraic representation and conversions in the reverse direction, and also in complex numbers problem solving. Data were collected from 95 pupils of the final grade from high schools in Greece (17–18 years old). Results shed light on pupils’ use of two distinct approaches to solve complex number tasks: the geometric and the algebraic approach. The geometric approach was used more frequently, while the pupils used the algebraic approach more consistently and in a more persistent way. The phenomenon of compartmentalization indicating a fragmental understanding of complex numbers was revealed among pupils who implemented the geometric approach. A common phenomenon was pupils’ difficulty in complex number problem solving, irrespective of their preferred type of approach.