# Misconceptions About Determinants

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## Abstract

In Zimbabwe, the topic determinant of matrices is usually covered as part of the first-year linear algebra courses. In this study, we focused on Zimbabwean teachers who were studying the topic at university while also teaching the topic to their high school pupils at a different level. The study explored the misconceptions displayed by 116 in-service mathematics teachers, with respect to determinants of matrices. The participants responded to tasks based on determinants of matrices and their applications. More than half of the participants struggled with finding the determinant of the inverse of a matrix, transpose of matrices, and the application of properties of determinants. The teachers exhibited many misconceptions, which were mainly a result of the incorrect application of rules outside the domain in which they were defined. The study suggests possible ways of teaching the concept of determinant to reduce the possible misconceptions among the mathematics teachers and their students. It is recommended that future course outlines of in-service teachers’ programmes should include more formal learning opportunities for teachers to develop a more conceptual understanding of the concept of determinant of a matrix.

## Keywords

Linear algebra Determinant of matrices Undergraduate mathematics In-service teachers Misconceptions## Notes

### Acknowledgements

This study was made possible by a fellowship received from Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD).

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