Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Fall 2012

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Mathematics and Statistics

Program or Major

Mathematics Education: Secondary

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Timothy Fukawa-Connelly


This descriptive study focuses on the approaches college students (ages 20 -24) use when solving systems of linear equations problems that have multiple choice answers. Participants were from a midsize public university in the northeast. Four approaches were considered – three forwards approaches: 1) substitution, 2) elimination, and 3) graphing, and one backwards approach: plugging in the x and y values from each multiple choice option. Participants solved systems of linear equations problems and answered questions based on their methods in a structured clinical interview. Each participant also filled out a questionnaire. It was shown from the results of this study that the major of a student does not change the approach used to solve a problem by very much. Most students in the study chose to use substitution to solve the problems, usually because this was the method students remembered most and was deemed the “easiest” method by the students.