Mental Representations of Diagrams, Views about Diagrams, and Problem Solving


This study investigated people’s mental representations of diagrams and whether these related to views about diagrams and problem solving performance. The participants were 93 undergraduate students who were asked to complete a questionnaire which included free writing on the topic of diagrams, and problem solving. Analysis of the statements and ideas that the students wrote revealed four categories through which diagrams may be mentally represented: uses/purposes, exemplars, personal opinions, and structure. Personal opinions responses were found to negatively correlate with views about the usefulness of diagrams, and with experiences and confidence in using diagrams. In contrast, responses about the uses/purposes of diagrams positively correlated with confidence in using diagrams. Evidence was also found suggesting that, among students studying math, greater knowledge about the uses/purposes of diagrams facilitated better problem solving performance.

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