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Do collaborative, real-life and engaging tasks that encourage the use of language improve learners’ ability to reason mathematically?

Do collaborative, real-life and engaging tasks that encourage the use of language improve learners’ ability to reason mathematically?
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This inquiry project is concerned with the topic of numerical reasoning, as part of Mathematics in the national curriculum. The project focuses on developing and enhancing the teaching and learning of reasoning for myself as a teacher, colleagues and learners.

The intervention carried out took the form of specifically designed tasks. The tasks provided were: collaborative (as learners worked with each other in partners and groups); encouraged the use of language; and were set within a real life and engaging context that was relatable for learners. A variety of data collection methods were used to collect data for analysis in order to examine what was happening during the intervention. Data collection methods used included:

  • Questionnaires and surveys
  • Observations of learning
  • Semi-structured interviews
  • Textual analysis (Including images of learners working)
  • Journal entries

The key findings discussed are:

  1. Learners benefited from working collaboratively when reasoning in order to support, extend and challenge each other. Although not all learners are yet equipped to work collaboratively.
  2. Learners benefited from tasks that encourage the use of language to consolidate understanding, justify strategies and describe approaches.
  3. Learners showed that they are more likely to engage meaningfully and willingly in reasoning tasks when the tasks are real life, relatable, enjoyable or within a context that they can imagine and make sense of.

In addition, the following impacts have occurred as a result of the intervention and project:

  1. As a teacher leader, I am more equipped to plan effective reasoning tasks that are centred on the needs and interests of learners.
  2. The learners are becoming more confident reasoners and are more willing to access reasoning tasks.
  3. The learners are less reliant on a teacher model of support to reason, and are using their peers and own developing understandings to reason effectively.
  4. I am in a position to share my findings with school colleagues and wider partners in order to ensure a wider impact for learners and staff.

Throughout this project much has been learnt. I have learnt about the value of inquiry to my own practice in order to address a felt need and improve learners’ skills in any area, inclusive of reasoning. I have learnt, in this case, that learners respond to tasks that are a reflection of what engages them. Therefore, it is paramount to know your learners, what difficulties they have, how best they learn and what can take their learning forward.

© Katie Wainwright 2017

Additional Info

  • Author: Daniel Frost
  • Email Address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Project originally written in: English
  • Project Reference: 8001