Teaching Secondary Mathematics - Module 5: Understanding Students' Mathematical Thinking - Focus on Algebra and the Meaning of Letters

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA


This module focuses on understanding students’ thinking in algebra through the mathematical theme of the meaning of letters in algebra.  This module has been developed from the examples provided in the indicator of progress: ‘The meaning of letters in algebra 4.25’ which is found on the Mathematics Developmental Continuum P–10. This module illustrates how teaching becomes more responsive to students’ needs when the teacher understands students’ mathematical thinking and common errors.

Key messages

  • Assessment for learning is an integral part of mathematics teaching
  • Teachers can better design instruction if they know about students’ common misconceptions, inadequate conceptions and their origins
  • The Mathematics Developmental Continuum P - 10 helps teachers put the learner at the centre by assisting teachers to accurately identify each student’s knowledge and suggesting learning experiences which enable the students to progress
  • Some common teaching approaches inadvertently teach misconceptions to students. These should be avoided at all times
  • Close examination of student work reveals ways of thinking that teachers may not have expected
  • Some misconceptions and inadequate conceptions persist for many years. Teaching needs to address them directly to change students’ thinking

Download Module 5 Workshop booklet and Presentation

To use Module 1, first save the booklet and PowerPoint presentation to your computer.


Links to Principles of Learning and Teaching P–10

Principle 5:  Assessment practices are an integral part of teaching and learning. This is illustrated by the teacher using evidence from assessment to inform planning and teaching

Additional resources needed for this module