A Method for Using Adjacency Matrices to Analyze the Connections Students Make Within and Between Concepts: The Case of Linear Algebra

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  • 1 Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Umwelt Nürtingen, Geislingen
  • 2 San Diego State University
  • 3 Virginia Tech
  • 4 Arizona State University

The central goals of most introductory linear algebra courses are to develop students' proficiency with matrix techniques, to promote their understanding of key concepts, and to increase their ability to make connections between concepts. In this article, we present an innovative method using adjacency matrices to analyze students' interpretation of and connections between concepts. Three cases provide examples that illustrate the usefulness of this approach for comparing differences in the structure of the connections, as exhibited in what we refer to as dense, sparse, and hub adjacency matrices. We also make use of mathematical constructs from digraph theory, such as walks and being strongly connected, to indicate possible chains of connections and flexibility in making connections within and between concepts. We posit that this method is useful for characterizing student connections in other content areas and grade levels.

Contributor Notes

Natalie E. Selinski, Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Umwelt, IBIS-Projekt, Sigmaringer Str. 14, 72622 Nürtingen, Germany; nselinski@hotmail.com

Chris Rasmussen, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, GMCS 415, San Diego, CA 92182; crasmussen@mail.sdsu.edu

Megan Wawro, Department of Mathematics, Virginia Tech, Mathematics (MC 0123), McBryde, RM 438, Virginia Tech, 225 Stanger Street, Blacksburg, VA 24061; mwawro@vt.edu

Michelle Zandieh, School of Letters and Sciences, Arizona State University, Waner 101M, Tempe, AZ, 85287; zandieh@asu.edu

(Corresponding author is Selinski nselinski@hotmail.com)(Corresponding author is Rasmussen crasmussen@mail.sdsu.edu)(Corresponding author is Wawro mwawro@vt.edu)(Corresponding author is Zandieh zandieh@asu.edu)
Journal for Research in Mathematics Education

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