2021-07-03Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1007/s40753-021-00144-x
Students’ Understanding of the Economic Interpretation of the Derivative in the Context of Marginal Cost
Many disciplines make use of mathematical concepts. However, there are often discrepancies between the way mathematical concepts are understood and taught in mathematics and the way they are used in other disciplines. The literature suggests that such discrepancies might make it hard for students in mathematics service courses to make a connection between the mathematical concepts taught and the way they are used in the students’ major disciplines. We investigated this hypothesis for one specific example in mathematics for economics students – the derivative and its interpretation commonly used in economics as the amount of change when increasing the production by one unit. We conducted an interview study investigating to what extent economics students can make a connection between the mathematical concept of the derivative and this common economic interpretation of the derivative. This study provides empirical evidence that it is actually difficult for economics students to make this connection, even though it was covered in their calculus course. In particular, the study reveals difficulties students have when trying to make this connection, which could be addressed in teaching.
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