Thinking, reasoning and working mathematically: a teacher's response to curriculum change

Smith, Kerry Lee (2010) Thinking, reasoning and working mathematically: a teacher's response to curriculum change. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Research consistently points out that the quality of mathematics teaching and learning needs improvement if students’ numeracy outcomes are to be improved. Curriculum documents, such as the Years 1-10 Mathematics Syllabus (QSA, 2004) and Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Framework (DETA, 2005), recommend teachers adopt an inquiry based ‘process approach’ where there is an increased focus on student learning. The students should be encouraged to think and reason, communicate and reflect with and about mathematical ideas to construct and validate them in ways that make sense to themselves and others. This approach is intended to improve numeracy outcomes by focussing on the productive development of mathematical understandings, practices and dispositions. However, while past research has examined teachers’ understanding of the key messages of reform, research about the practical implementation is limited. Thus a gap exists between the intended and practised curriculum in mathematics classrooms and this gap needs to be more fully explained and understood for numeracy outcomes to improve.

This ‘descriptive case study’ (Shank, 2006) focussed on that gap to better understand the practical implementation of curriculum ideals. The study was conducted in a year six classroom of a small private school in North Queensland. It investigated, in detail, one teacher’s attempt to implement curriculum change to reveal how and why certain experiences challenge, inspire or motivate the teacher’s facilitation and students’ uptake of learning processes comprising thinking, reasoning and working mathematically. The researched change involved the teacher’s adoption of certain mathematics practices that would arguably result in more effective instructional strategies and investigative learning processes. Student pre- and post-questionnaires were used to determine changes to disposition and willingness to engage in mathematics learning. Pre- and post-questionnaires were also used to explicate changes to the teacher’s pedagogical beliefs or understandings as a result of implementing the curriculum change. Further data were obtained from semi-structured interviews and detailed classroom observations and all data were analysed through a qualitative content data analysis (Lankshear & Knobel, 2005). Whilst this study is limited to a sample size of one teacher, the rich, thick data revealed that change is complex; it is worthwhile, yet slow and abounds with challenges. The teacher’s practice changed and the classroom atmosphere altered to enhance more collaborative mathematical inquiry. Student engagement and disposition started to improve in relation to reform ideals. Further research is needed to document, collaborate and perform cross case analyses to highlight exemplary practices and to examine the effect of reform oriented teaching on student learning outcomes and achievement. The results of this study will inform policymakers and researchers regarding future research directives and acquaint other teachers with some of the successes and challenges of implementing new policy directives.

Item ID: 11723
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: primary education, Queensland, curriculum change, mathematics, numeracy, mathematical thinking, reasoning, effective teaching, teaching processes, pedagogy, learning processes, inquiry-based teaching, inquiry-based learning
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2010 23:50
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130202 Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development @ 25%
13 EDUCATION > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130208 Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy @ 50%
13 EDUCATION > 1301 Education Systems > 130105 Primary Education (excl Maori) @ 25%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9301 Learner and Learning > 930102 Learner and Learning Processes @ 50%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9301 Learner and Learning > 930103 Learner Development @ 50%
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