Successful algebraic problem solving entails adaptability of solution methods using different representations. Prior research has suggested that students are more likely to prefer symbolic solution methods (equations) over graphical ones, even when graphical methods should be more efficient. However, this research has not tested how representation format might affect solution success, and whether the efficiency of solution varies depending on the nature of the problem solving task. This study addressed the question of whether symbolic or graphical representation format provides different affordances with respect to two different types of problems: computation and interpretation. Graphical representation was found to facilitate problem solving among college students, and problems that required the comparison of slopes were more difficult when presented in a symbolic format than in graphical format.
Mielicki, Marta K. and Wiley, Jennifer
"Alternative Representations in Algebraic Problem Solving: When are Graphs Better Than Equations?,"
The Journal of Problem Solving:
1, Article 1.
Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jps/vol9/iss1/1