This study considers the results of a diagnostic test of student difficulty and contrasts the difference in performance between the lower attaining quartile and the higher quartile. It illustrates a difference in qualitative thinking between those who succeed and those who fail in mathematics, illustrating a theory that those who fail are performing a more difficult type of mathematics (coordinating procedures) than those who succeed (manipulating concepts). Students who have to coordinate or reverse processes in time will encounter far greater difficulty than those who can manipulate symbols in a flexible way. The consequences of such a dichotomy and implications for remediation are then considered
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