Novice versus Expert Algebraic Problem-~Solving Strategies: An Eye Tracking Approach

Krystal Kamekona-Mendoza


Algebra continues to be an important point along the educational spectrum. It is often the point at which we see a deviation of educational trajectories for those who are interested in pursuing additional math and science courses and those who are not. Understanding how college algebra students perform is a crucial step in further understanding the difficulties that students often encounter, as well as understanding other potential factors that may contribute to their performance. The novice/expert paradigm is one way to examine performance differences. While existing literature indicates that novices and experts perceive, sort, and solve problems differently across a variety of domains, this paradigm has yet to be applied to algebra. It has also been shown that cognitive processing can guide an individual’s eye movements. Evidence is lacking in this domain with regard to what performance differences look like in terms of these eye movements (e.g., number of fixations, length of fixations) during more complex math tasks. Using an algebraic problem-solving task, this thesis examined performance differences between novices (undergraduate College Algebra students) and experts (graduate students with a substantial background in mathematics). Given the role that working memory plays in mental arithmetic, another purpose of this thesis was to assess how working memory might impact performance when solving algebraic equations and if working memory is a good predictor of performance.