e-book Investigating Mathematics Teaching: A Constructivist Enquiry (Studies in Curriculum History Series)

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The teacher initiated a ball game whereby she threw the ball to learners — they caught it and threw it back to her. There was no discussion that linked movements to mathematical concepts, for example, of length and time, or that might have allowed problem-solving or critical thinking about the manipulation of hoops or how these behaved spinning, rolling, oscillating and so on. A teacher, with 5 years teaching experience and who teaches in a private school in the town, seems to base her teaching methodology on learning through play.

At her interview she said:. They like to be involved in all activities.

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There are hyperactive learners that always need your attention and supervision. That is the only way to control them. If he is finished doing this, you should give him another thing to do. The only thing you do to make them to learn is to keep them busy all the time.

By making use of a computer in her class, this teacher exposed learners to mathematical concepts as this excerpt from the lesson observation narrative shows:. The teacher and one learner faced a computer while the rest of the learners sat on the carpet watching what was happening on the small computer screen. All the 25 learners were very excited to use the computer and to play a game on it, but only a few 6 had the opportunity to do this, while the rest of the group watched. The teacher assisted the learner in front of the computer in handling the computer mouse but did not engage in any discussion regarding why a certain computer action was being used, nor did she ask any guiding questions.

As illustrated in this excerpt, learning through play only took place for six learners while others were passive, watching what was going on in front of them. In the latter case, we take the view that it is not developmentally appropriate for learners to sit passively watching a few friends executing a computer programme in a haphazard way unsupported by teacher questioning or intervention.

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At her interview, this teacher said:. I am not forcing a child when he does not want to participate. I give them worksheets … they are past the time for playing … I begin to work more formally. Yes, they must count every day in order for them to be aware of numbers. Therefore, I focus on numbers 1 to 10 in order for them to grasp it. I concentrate on counting activities in mathematics. Although this teacher is working more formally with the learners, her classroom organisation and management seemed to be a stumbling block in ensuring productive mathematical learning activities, as this excerpt from the lesson observation narrative shows:.

The teacher had no control in her classroom. While she was conducting the group discussion, some learners were eating, walking around, fiddling and even stumbling and falling. There was more than one discussion going on at the same time, even while the teacher was giving instructions or trying to explain to the learners what must be done.

Many of the 46 learners were not concentrating — although the learners were instructed to complete the worksheet, some preferred to play and took the bear from the cupboard. One girl was sweeping the floor in order not to participate in the activities.

The worksheet A4 was too small for 46 learners to see how many shapes and animals there were on it. No individual attention was given to learners as questions were asked to no one specifically and some learners shouted out the answers. The shapes square, circle and triangle were too small and made out of flimsy paper for all the learners to feel it in their group. Again, not all learners participated in the shapes and counting activities as some of them were wrestling on the carpet or played with a ball in the class.

The teacher took a laissez-faire approach and had little or no control over the class. Although this teacher acknowledged that she experiences challenges in her classroom, she does not seem to realise that the absence of a well-planned and organised classroom, especially relating to available resources, has a negative impact on the learning activities.

She is of the opinion that the discipline problems she experiences are a result of overcrowding and the disruptive behaviour of learners. She said:. When I receive new resources, I am afraid to put them out as they will be broken. They cannot play correctly with the toys, they storm at it and then it breaks.

Yes, yes, I cannot turn my back … but when they are so many, I cannot identify who is making the noise. Therefore I played two days sick and stayed at home. The aim of this research was to provide an understanding of what the experiences of selected teachers are when they teach mathematics in their classrooms as well as how these experiences affect their teaching strategies. Focussing on data analysis from the focus group and semi-structured individual interviews, it seems as if some Grade R teachers do have some rather limited general knowledge regarding teaching mathematics in Grade R.

The backgrounds, training and teaching experiences of Grade R teachers could positively affect their day-to-day implementation of mathematics, as illustrated by the two teachers who received formal pre-service training, specialising in ECD. The other seven teachers interviewed and observed were either formally trained as Junior Primary Teachers or were in the process of receiving in-service training.

However, The Baseline Study Report ECDoE found that many of the Grade R teachers in the Eastern Cape, in spite of their training, still taught in a teacher-centred way while their learners were not participating in activities:. The majority of ECD practitioners were teaching as they probably had been taught teacher-controlled … using the traditional teacher-tell methods with passive quiet learners. ECDoE Although the National Curriculum Statement prescribes mathematical content for Grade R, it is our contention that the enacted curriculum will only reflect the principles of the intended curriculum if Grade R subject advisors and mathematics curriculum specialists from the provincial and district education offices support and guide Grade R teachers in how to implement mathematics.

This requires promoting and presenting Grade R mathematics in a hands-on, developmentally appropriate manner, using activities that involve and engage learners and that open spaces for learner creativity and critical thinking. Therefore, appeal for support visits, as expressed by one of the teachers in this study should not be ignored:. Education departments as well as other training organisations such as universities, FET colleges, resource and training organisations all need to play a part in ensuring that Grade R teachers and their school management teams understand what is meant by productive learning through play, in order to ensure that it takes a high priority in the Grade R day programme DBE Because of the fact that some teachers in our study did not fully understand the importance of learning through play, they seemed not to be able to provide mathematical activities whereby learners experienced concepts through exploration, experimentation and problem-solving activities.

In contrast, some Grade R teachers rather gave their learners worksheets to complete as in Grade 1. Faber and Van Staden point out that learners engaged in problem-solving activities in worksheets need only to choose a calculation procedure. In contrast, Grouws and Good stress the importance of discussing and explaining how a mathematical problem is solved. One of the teachers in our study did provide movement and play activities, but joined in the activities with the learners.

It is possible that this teacher sees a reason, as Jones suggests Jones , for teacher domination of play activities to limit discipline problems. However, we believe that subject advisors could be used to guide teachers not to dominate play activities, perhaps showing examples of good practice where this can be done. In conclusion, the experiences of selected teachers of teaching mathematics in Grade R in our study varied.

Some teachers felt confident when they planned and guided learners to discover mathematical concepts, while others experienced frustration and a need for further training, especially in how to enact the intended curriculum. This frustration and uncertainty had a negative impact in some classrooms, especially when mathematical activities are presented. However, circumstances such as the background and training experiences of teachers contribute to this feeling of either being confident or frustrated. The understanding and deployment of developmentally appropriate mathematics in Grade R forms the bedrock for further mathematics learning.

For meaningful practice to develop in South African schools, requires stakeholders in schools, FE, HE and at government, departmental and provincial levels, to make a coordinated and system-wide effort. The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Anghileri, J. Barnard, E. Branscombe, N. Campbell, P. Chambers ed. Cohen, L. Faber, R. Grouws, D.

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Thyer, D. Citation Barnard, E. Original Research. Abstract Concerns have been expressed about the quality of teaching and learning in Grade R reception classrooms in South Africa. Strategies for the implementation of mathematics in Grade R Two recent government-commissioned studies raise concerns regarding the quality of Grade R Reception in South Africa.