Functional Thinking: A Study with 10th-Grade Students

Raquel Martins, Floriano Viseu, Helena Rocha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


This study aims to understand the functional thinking of 10th-grade students while studying functions. Specifically, we intend to answer the following research questions: what are the functional thinking processes used by 10th-grade students when studying functions? What difficulties do students present while learning functions? In view of the nature of this research objective, we adopted a qualitative and interpretative approach. In order to answer these questions, data were collected from the written records produced by the students while solving the proposed tasks, from records of the oral interactions during discussions and from a questionnaire. The results show that functional thinking processes were implicit in the resolution of the tasks proposed to the students. The students expressed an understanding of how the variables were related, presenting evidence of their functional thinking while working on the new concepts represented by the functions addressed in the proposed tasks. Some students expressed difficulties in interpreting the different types of representations associated with the functions, in retaining the necessary information from a graphical representation that would help them to draw conclusions and establish correspondences, in explaining functional relationships, and in interpreting the information provided by algebraic expressions. These difficulties can reduce the recognition of the relationships between variables and their behavior in the different representations, becoming an obstacle to learning for some students.

Original languageEnglish
Article number335
Number of pages22
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • 10th-grade students
  • functional thinking
  • functions
  • learning


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