The contribution of grades 4–6 mathematics textbooks towards the development of conceptual understanding of two-dimensional (2-D) shapes
Mosiane, Tom Mokadi
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The aim of this study was to investigate the contribution of grades 4 – 6 Mathematics (English LOLT) textbooks on the development of conceptual understanding of 2-D shapes. A review of literature concerning the textbooks, readability, the language of learning and teaching (LOLT), curriculum and conceptual understanding, was conducted in order to frame a better understanding of the key words, build the statement of the title as well as find and review relevant literature. The contribution of the textbooks as tools towards the development of conceptual understanding of 2-D shapes, is understood by the researcher to either be present or not present at all. It cannot be satisfied halfway because the purpose of the textbook is full compliance with the CAPS. Thus, the contribution of the textbooks is evidenced and confirmed by full compliance to the relevant intended curriculum requirements and refuted by partial or no compliance at all. A pragmatic worldview, with both a document and conceptual analytical research design methodology as strategy of inquiry, was implemented for this qualitative research to study the state and level of the English LOLT, curriculum and research compliance in five of eight approved series of grades 4 - 6 Mathematics textbooks. The five series identified for evaluation were the only ones in use by the English LOLT schools in the greater Potchefstroom area. The ordinary English language of the textbooks was analysed with the Gunning Fog Readability Test (GFRT); the Mathematics topics, concepts and skills of 2-D shapes were analysed and evaluated for compliance with the specification of content and clarification notes of the CAPS, as well as the Van Hiele theory levels 0 and 1 descriptors. The GFRT was proposed by a research advisor. It was used electronically online and the similar but separate and different CAPS-based and Van Hiele theory-based measuring instruments were designed and used by the researcher to analyse and evaluate the textbooks. The findings of this research contradict the evaluation of the DBE that resulted in the approval of eight series of textbooks from which five were identified and studied, and suggest that all five approved series of grades 4 – 6 Mathematics textbooks evaluated are not “fit for their purpose” on the topics, concepts and skills of 2-D shapes. Only 20% of the five series of textbooks per grade in the intermediate phase are readable with ease and understanding and can thus contribute to the conceptual understanding of 2-D shapes. All fifteen textbooks are not CAPS compliant according to the focus of this research, and can therefore not be relied on to interpret and give meaning to the intended curriculum. They are also not Van Hiele compliant and thereby demonstrate that the world renowned research findings of the Van Hieles have either not been incorporated in the textbooks’ teaching and learning method and pedagogical approach or simply not fully incorporated. Three recommendations follow from the findings of the research. The first one is that the readability of every textbook be evaluated when they are considered for approval and adoption into the national catalogue. One or more of the existing foreign readability measuring instruments can be used for this purpose; however the development and use of a special South African tailored and owned English as a First Additional Language instrument is strongly suggested to ensure correct, consistent and appropriate English LOLT level for the grade and age group of the learners. Secondly, for CAPS compliance, the DBE must design and utilise much more methodical, indepth and stringent evaluation processes according to the topics, concepts and skills in the CAPS documents. Thus textbooks should be scored on specific topics, concepts and skills and not in general terms as it seems to be the case currently. There must be specific minimum CAPS progression level(s) in percentage and measurement set for acceptable progression levels between any two consecutive grades in terms of topics, concepts and skills, the content area and the entire grade. Furthermore, only 100% CAPS compliant textbooks must be approved for inclusion in the national catalogue of textbooks from which the teachers of school choose textbooks for their learners. Thirdly and lastly, that the world renowned Van Hiele Theory of Geometric Thought be incorporated into the South African Mathematics curriculum policies, practice and research as part of strengthening South African Mathematics education.
- Education