The work of students on a specific mathematical topic is described in terms of their initial lack of confidence to take the concept on board through to their final understanding of the topic; a change that was greatly supported by their use of spreadsheets. The outcome for the students parallels the findings of the study by Sutherland and Rojano which showed that, for Year 10-11 students ‘pupils initially had difficulty accepting the idea of working with a general unknown’ but that the ‘spreadsheet environment supported pupils to move from thinking with the specific to the general’. In the mathematics education literature, the use of spreadsheets as a tool has an established level of acceptance both through research studies and policy documents, but there remains the need for further studies of its practical application both as a program that can enhance learning and as a tool with which students can express their understanding. This article is but one step in this direction, and adopts the pedagogical approach of Cobb where the students are given opportunities through social interaction in the classroom to develop their own understanding and representations of a concept.

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