Collaborative Computing as a Means of Overcoming Math Phobia in Primary School Learners: Case Study in Calculating Simple Perimeters

By Nirendran Naidoo and R. Naidoo.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Primary school learners’ first encounters with mathematics in a traditional learning environment often create lifelong ‘math phobia.’(Papert 1980) The situation in a country emerging from an oppressive education system designed to educationally disempower the majority of the population is much worse. The typical scenario in a previously disadvantaged South African primary school is a classroom filled beyond capacity with the educator struggling to establish an effective learning environment. Thus the educator resorts to rote learning, drill and practice and ‘chalk and talk’ methods of teaching. The individual needs and levels of learners are disregarded and blanket assessment methods are employed (Naidoo and Naidoo 2006b). Collaborative learning is minimal or non-existent. These traditional teaching strategies often disregard cultural and social factors, and pre-knowledge frames of learners. Therefore there is an urgent need for alternative teaching and learning strategies to address the teaching of mathematics in primary schools. The introduction of networked computer laboratories to previously disadvantaged South African primary schools enables the use of computers as powerful tools to analyze the thought processes of learners during their early encounters with mathematics. A collaborative learning approach using a networked computing environment and LOGO mathematics to facilitate the teaching and learning of perimeter in a Grade 5 class produced significantly higher grades and an enhanced learning experience, both for learners and the educator, as compared to a second Grade 5 class utilizing traditional teaching and learning methods only. This study entailed the use of software (VNC Viewer) to promote collaborative learning encompassing both learner-learner and learner-educator interaction. Apart from the educator using the computer as a medium of instruction via the software, learners were allowed to actively provide input. Furthermore the software allowed the educator to view learners’ progress during activities and provide real-time input via the computer. However a shortcoming of the software was that it could not be used to address errors made by learners thus failing to modify pre-mathematical frames.

Keywords: Computer, Primary School, Math Phobia, Collaborative, Perimeter

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp.181-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.434MB).

Nirendran Naidoo

Senior Teacher, Department of Mathematics and Computers, Department of Education, Durban, KwaZuluNatal, South Africa

I am a primary school teacher. I teach mathematics and computers. My field of research is mathematics and computers. Presently I am a D.Tech student researching primary school mathematics using technology such as computer laboratory and web based learning.

Dr. R. Naidoo

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built-in environment, Durban University of Technology, Durban, KwaZuluNatal, South Africa

I am a lecturer in mathematics. I am a Phd in mathematics and an MPhil in mathematics education. Researcher in the fields of mathematics (such as computational mathematics) and in mathematics education (such as teaching and learning mathematics in higher education). Papers have been published in numerical mathematics and teaching and learning of differential calculus.

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