TME(2022) Vol 3, No. 1, pp 62-74

Teaching and Learning Complex Numbers through Problem Solving

Tin Lam TOH

National Institute of Education
Nanyang Technological University

Published in The Mathematician Educator, 2022, Vol 3, No. 1, pp 62-74.


With reference to complex numbers, it is argued in this paper that attention should not only be focused on the practical usefulness or the aesthetics of mathematics to make mathematics attractive to students. Teachers could ride on the affordance of the problem solving mathematics curriculum framework in engaging students in activities that reveal the “power” of mathematics in solving mathematics problems and generalizing the results. The paper illustrates how portions of complex numbers, a pre-university mathematics topic, could be introduced through the various stages of mathematical problem solving. The use of complex numbers is a natural progression from basic algebraic manipulation at the secondary level and could be introduced through expanding a problem in the problem solving process; students could be introduced to the power of mathematics in providing an alternative solution or proof to mathematics problems from geometry and calculus. The roots of a complex numbers can be introduced by teaching through problem solving and re-enacting the (simplified) process of how mathematicians discovered complex numbers.

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