The use of calculators during problem-solving activities in a Grade 9 mathematics classroom
MetadataShow full item record
There is a growing concern in Namibia about the declining performance of learners in mathematics. Mathematics is most often taught through a traditional teaching approach which emphasises the memorisation of facts and allows little room to connect to real-life situations. The problem-solving approach allows learners to acquire information, develop knowledge, analyse and synthesise knowledge. Calculators promise to assist learners in problem-solving by improving their problem-solving skills, and also their higher-order thinking skills and conceptual understanding. This has potential to impact their achievement directly. The purpose of the study was to investigate the use of calculators in problem-solving activities in a grade 9 mathematics classroom. The population of the study consisted of all the grade 9 learners attending a rural school in Namibia. Purposive sampling was used in order to identify participants. This research employed a qualitative case study methodology since it aimed to develop explanations for social aspects of our world, and sought to determine participants' experiences of the problem-solving approach as well as the role that the calculator plays in problem-solving. Data were generated by giving participants various task-based interviews to complete. These task-based interviews presented participants with a problem-solving task followed by interview questions that could provide insight into their experiences of the problem-solving process with the use of calculators. Data were further gathered through teacher reflections in which the teacher reflected on what happened in the classroom, which strategies were employed and what role the calculator played in the lessons. Data were analysed using content analysis in which themes were identified and discussed. The analysis was guided by Pólya's problem-solving model. All the performing groups attempted to find solutions to the problems by using various planned strategies. The most common reason for failure seemed to be an inability to understand both the question and the concept. The analysis of the task-based interviews indicated that: confidence has an influence on performance. Time allocation was a challenge and participants had to come to grips with the new problem-solving approach to learn mathematical concepts. The teacher acted as a mentor and guide throughout. The research proved that with constant supervision, most learners found the usage of calculators positive and beneficial and they could further develop the skill of understanding when to use a calculator and when not to use a calculator for solving problems. Problem-solving activities especially in Grade 9 mathematics in Namibia is a novel concept to learners and sufficient time needs to be allocated in order to accommodate this. Participants improved their problem-solving strategies by working in groups where they could learn from each other, but they also needed to take individual responsibility.
- Education