Strengthen Elementary Students’ Understanding of Factors

Jordan Frotz

Abstract


Research on pre-service elementary school teachers’ understanding of the multiplicative structure of the natural numbers demonstrates an under-utilization of unique prime factorization in the identification of a number’s factors. For example, Zazkis and Campbell found that a majority of teacher candidates employed trial division to analyze factor-candidates of a number, even when both were presented in prime-factored-form. 1 Recent studies have shown that teachers’ understanding of factor can be strengthened by engaging in a sequence of instructional tasks that explore the relationship between a number’s prime factorization and its factors.2 This study seeks to extend the scope of investigation in this area to the population of elementary school students. The research questions addressed by the study are:

1. To what extent do elementary school students under-utilize unique prime factorization in the identification of a number’s factors?

2. How is elementary students’ usage of unique prime factorization in the identification of a number’s factors similar to, or different from, that of pre-service elementary school teachers as identified in the research literature?

3. Which instructional tasks strengthen elementary school students’ understanding of the use of prime factorization in the identification of a number’s factors?

Researchers conducted teaching experiments in two elementary school mathematics classrooms.  A mix-methods analysis of quantitative pre- and post-test data and qualitative student work was employed.


Keywords


Factorization; Prime Factors; Education

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