An exploration of the use of selected concrete teaching and learning materials in developing mathematics proficiency in fractions in three grade 7 classes in the Pinetown District.
Nyathi, Welcome Siyabonga.
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This study was motivated by my concern about the poor performance of primary school learners in the area of fractions. Fraction concepts should be well established by Grade 7 but I had found that they were problematic and wished to deepen conceptual understanding by the use of concrete teaching and learning materials such as, Cuisenaire rods, number lines, fraction circles, fraction strips and beans. The key research questions were: Can selected concrete teaching and learning materials help in developing proficiency in fractions in Grade 7 learners? Which pedagogical practices and strategies are helpful in developing mathematics proficiency in fractions? The research methodology can be described as action research. A set of activities developed by the Rational Number Project (RNP) in 2006 was used to teach a two week programme on basic fraction concepts to three successive Grade 7 classes. After the first two completed two week cycles, the learner work was studied, input from colleagues was sought and then after reflection, the next cycle was begun, implementing the lessons learnt. The data corpus includes biographical details of each of the learners, their final Grade 7 Mathematics and English marks, achievement on a fractions test, the completed activities and focus group interview transcripts. The theoretical framework of the RNP is based on the idea of multi-representations and in particular the translation model proposed by Lesh, one of the project researchers. In this study, the notion of mathematical proficiency is also used to analyse the different aspects of learning demonstrated by the learners. It was found that the achievements of the third cohort of learners were higher in the final test thus indicating that perhaps the improved teaching had an effect. Analysis of the learner work indicates that while the learners can speak correctly about the fraction ideas, and even draw correct pictures, they struggle to use the mathematical symbols correctly.