# The Use of Variables in a Patterning Activity: Counting Dots

### Abstract

The present paper examines a patterning activity that was organised within a teaching experiment in order to analyse the different uses of variables by secondary school students. The activity presented in the paper can be categorised as a pictorial/geometric linear pattern. We adopted a student-oriented perspective for our analysis, in order to grasp how students perceive their own generalising actions. The analysis of our data led us to two broad categories for variable use, according to whether the variable is viewed as a generalised number or not. Our results also show that students sometimes treat the variable as closely linked to a referred object, as a superfluous entity or as a constant. Finally, the notion of equivalence, which is an important step towards understanding variables, proved difficult for our students to grasp.

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**Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal**, [S.l.], v. 8, n. 2, p. 55-70, june 2018. ISSN 2232-2647. Available at: <https://ojs.cepsj.si/index.php/cepsj/article/view/309>. Date accessed: 24 sep. 2018. doi: https://doi.org/10.26529/cepsj.309.

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