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Analyzing Changes in Student Graph Reasoning and Comprehension Regarding Graph Axis Presentation

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Cognitive Skills Development

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Justin Cory Willis University Of Maine

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Justin Willis is a Graduate Instructor at the University of Maine, for the Mechanical Engineering Technology department. He is also a graduate student in UMaine's Master of Science in Teaching program, and a volunteer math tutor for students and adults in Old Town, ME. Research interests include statistics education in engineering applications, and career and adult education.

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Brett D. Ellis University of Maine Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Brett Ellis, P.E. is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering Technology at the University of Maine and has worked in the mechanical engineering field for 22 years, with approximately 14 years of industrial experience. His industrial experience includes open hole testing in the oil and gas industry; failure analysis consulting; and extensive experience in the plastic processing industry, in which he designed plastic preforms and bottles, designed injection- and blow-molding tooling, designed and optimized polymer processing equipment, and led continuous improvement activities (e.g., Lean Six Sigma, SMED, and Gage R&R). Dr. Ellis's professional interests include stress analysis, solid mechanics, continuous improvement, design, and education. He is a licensed Professional Engineer and a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt.

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[Evidence-Based Practice]This study analyzes the effects of truncated or unlabeled graph axis presentations on student-drawn conclusions. The research subjects in question were students in natural science, forestry, medicine, or engineering technology majors in their second or third year. Students were provided survey questions that had different methods of axes labeling on the dependent variable (y-axis) and were scored and coded based on their correct or incorrect response. These multiple-choice survey questions included control questions from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 8th grade math standardized exam, along with experimental questions of similar format having either truncated or unlabeled axes. Students also reported their perceived confidence in their answer on a 0-100% scale. Analyses of student responses and confidence percentages were completed for each question, for all students and for students self-reporting as educated within Maine’s K-12 school system. Results indicate that truncated and unlabeled axes decreased correct response levels by 20% and 55%, respectively, compared to control questions. Interestingly, self-reported student confidence for the truncated and unlabeled axes questions decreased by 10% and 2%, respectively, compared to control questions. Based upon the results, it is hypothesized that students receive mixed messages regarding visual and numerical presentation of a graph.

Willis, J. C., & Ellis, B. D. (2020, June), Analyzing Changes in Student Graph Reasoning and Comprehension Regarding Graph Axis Presentation Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34147

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