Undergraduate basic sciences and engineering students’ understanding of the concept of derivative

Saeid Haghjoo(1*), Ebrahim Reyhani(2)

(1) Faculty of Science, Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University, Islamic Republic of Iran
(2) Faculty of Science, Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University, Islamic Republic of Iran
(*) Corresponding Author


Derivative is one of the most important topics in calculus that has many applications in various sciences. However, according to the research, students do not have a deep understanding of the concept of derivative and they often have misconceptions. The present study aimed to investigate undergraduate basic sciences and engineering students’ understanding of the concept of derivative at Tehran universities on based the framework of Zandieh. The method was descriptive-survey. The population included all undergraduate students of Tehran universities who passed Calculus I. The sample included 604 students being selected through multi-stage random cluster sampling. The measurement tool was a researcher-made test for which the reliability coefficient was obtained using Cronbach's alpha (r=.88). Inspired by Hähkiöniemi’s research, nine tasks on derivative learning were given to the students. The students’ responses were evaluated using a five-point Likert scale and analyzed using descriptive responses. The results indicated that students have no appropriate understanding of the basic concepts of derivatives in numerical, physical, verbal, and graphical contexts. Basic sciences students performed meaningfully were better in understanding the tangent line slope compared to engineering students, while engineering students performed meaningfully were better than basic sciences students in the rate of change.


Instrumental understanding, calculus, derivative, Zandieh framework, the rate of change

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