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The Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)

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Thesis Defense – Alison Dorko

The Maine RiSE Center
presents an


MST Candidate
Allison Dorko

Thesis Advisor: Natasha Speer

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Science in Teaching
May 2012

Calculus Students’ Understanding of Area and Volume
in Non-Calculus Contexts

         Researchers have documented difficulties that elementary school students have in understanding area and volume. Although area and volume show up in various ways later in the curriculum, we know very little about older students’ understanding of these concepts. The goal of this study is to develop descriptions of calculus students’ understanding of area and volume concepts in non-calculus contexts. Participants included 255 introductory calculus students and 43 multivariable calculus students. Clinical interview transcripts and students’ written responses to area and volume problems (computational and short answer) were analyzed. Findings indicate that some differential calculus students struggle with the units associated with various spatial measures. This is consistent with findings from literature about elementary school students. In addition, some differential calculus students mistakenly find surface area when directed to find volume.

Monday, December 5, 2011
8:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium
165 Barrows Hall


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The Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)
5727 Estabrooke Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5727
Phone: (207) 581-4672 | Fax: (207) 581-9555E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469