NOMAD 22(4), 2017

Skapad: 2018-01-04. Ändrad: 2018-01-04  

NOMAD 22(4), 2017

A study of students’ concept images of inverse functions in Ireland and Sweden

Sinéad Breen, Niclas Larson, Ann O’Shea and Kerstin Pettersson


In this paper we focus on first-year university students’ conceptions of inverse function. We present results from two projects, conducted in Ireland and Sweden respectively. In both countries, data were collected through questionnaires, as well as through student interviews in Sweden. We draw on the notion of concept image and describe the components of students’ evoked concept images. The students’ responses involved e.g. ”reflection”, ”reverse”, and concrete ”examples”, while just a few students gave explanations relating to the definition of inverse functions. We found that the conceptions of inverses as reflections and reverse processes are important and relatively independent of local factors, and the data seemed to suggest that a ”reverse” conception is linked to an appreciation of injectivity more than a
”reflection” conception.

Sinéad Breen

Sinéad Breen holds a PhD in Mathematics (on Asymptotic Analysis) from Dublin City University and has recently returned there as an Assistant Professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences. She conducts research in mathematics education, her main interest being in the teaching and learning of mathematics at undergraduate level.

Niclas Larson

Niclas Larson is an associate professor at the Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway. His research interest lies in the teaching and learning of mathematics at secondary or university level. Current projects, both comparative, deal with students’ understanding of proof by mathematical induction and student teachers’ explanations of solutions to linear equations respectively. His methodological and theoretical standpoints are varied and driven by current research questions.

Ann O’Shea

Ann O'Shea is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the Maynooth University in Ireland. She received a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana in 1991. Currently her research interests lie in Mathematics Education, especially at undergraduate level.

Kerstin Pettersson

Kerstin Pettersson is an associate professor at the Department of Mathe-matics and Science Education, Stockholm University, Sweden. Her research interests concern university students’ conceptions of thres-hold concepts. Current projects deal with students’ learning in small groups teaching and students’ understanding of proof by mathematical induction.