The Use of the Graphing Calculator to Support the Learning of the Function Concept by Students with Learning Disabilities in a Mathematics Classroom

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Science and Mathematics


Mathematical Sciences

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Kenneth Wolff


Technology-based lessons are often discovery-based lessons that draw upon student' prior knowledge in the construction of new knowledge. In studies that focused on classes where graphing calculator technology was used, students were more active, and they participated in more group work, investigations and explorations than did students in classes that did not use graphing calculator technology. However, no study has been carried out to examine the advantages or disadvantages of using the graphing calculator to support the learning of algebra by students with learning disabilities. Learning disabilities in secondary students can impede their academic performance in algebra classes. Difficulty processing information, low self-esteem, and difficulty in self-monitoring are all contributing factors. Finding instructional strategies that are successful for students with learning disabilities is critical. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the use of the graphing calculator by students with learning disabilities as they studied the function concept, specifically its use to introduce graphs, tables, and equations. An instructional unit was developed specifically for this study. Data for the study were collected from pre-unit and post-unit attitudinal surveys and function concept tests, audiotaped classroom observations during the instructional unit, face-to-face interviews, sample student work, and teacher journal entries.

Results indicated that the graphing calculator could foster active student participation and assist students in making connections to real-world data. Additionally, the graphing calculator used in conjunction with explicit teacher modeling could assist students with learning disabilities in their conceptual understanding of the function concept. These findings suggest a need for professional development in the use of the graphing calculator in a constructivist group learning environment and that mathematics teachers of students with learning disabilities should not hesitate to incorporate it into their instruction.


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