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Exploring teachers’ understanding of pedagogic practices in teaching mathematical concepts in grade 1: a case study in South African primary schools.

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The study examines teachers’ understanding of their learning theories on pedagogic practices in teaching mathematical concepts in Grade 1. The study emanates from the findings of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) Report and also from research which indicates that the teaching and learning of Mathematics in primary schools in South Africa are considered to be in crisis. Mathematics teachers remain critical role players in ensuring quality teaching and learning, as they are the curriculum implementers, but they seem to lack the crucial support that underpins improved learner performance. Forming a solid and a broad mathematical foundation on Mathematics concepts like numbers and operations, geometry and spatial sense, and measurement, with algebra and data analysis playing supporting roles, is one of the goals to unpack how teachers teach Mathematics to achieve their goals when teaching Mathematics. It is evident from research that learners in Grade 1 find mathematical concepts challenging and hence many perform poorly. The objective of this study was to understand pedagogic choices Mathematics teachers make to teach mathematical concepts, and to understand ways in which these pedagogical choices affect the learners’ acquisition of such concepts. Theoretically, the study draws on both Constructivism and Bernstein’s Pedagogic Device Theory. The study adopts a qualitative approach and uses a case study methodology. The selection of different schools in different context was not for comparison purposes but for understanding how teachers understand their pedagogic practices in teaching Mathematics in Grade 1. All ethical issues were observed to ensure trustworthiness of findings. Multiple data generation tools such as semi-structured interviews, classroom observations and documents analysis were utilised. Data was analysed through content analysis. Data were first summarised and then categorised to themes. The conclusions arrived at indicate that even though primary school teachers understand officially sanctioned pedagogical practices for Mathematics, like learner-centeredness and collaborative learning, they were faced with multiple challenges in their efforts to implement their understating of pedagogical practices as there were challenges with the shortage of resources. Therefore, it is impossible for them to implement the rationale, aims and objectives, in the content for Mathematics teaching. Vigorous innovation on teachers understanding would keep them well-informed about pedagogic theories and content knowledge to enable them to attain the required level of knowledge and understanding of their practice.


Doctor of Philosophy. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2016.


Mathematics--Study in teaching., Mathematical concepts., Pedagogic practices., Theses--Education.