An investigation of the implementation of a problem-solving intervention in two primary classrooms
AuthorStewart, Elizabeth Jane
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Elizabeth Jane Stewart
Problem-solving in mathematics is an important component of curricula around the world and it has been identified as essential that students develop this capacity in order to achieve success in mathematics. Studies have found that more teachers need to teach their students strategies to problem-solve in mathematics. The aim of this case study was to investigate the implementation of a problem-solving intervention by two primary school teachers over two lessons each. It focussed on their perceptions of the effectiveness of the intervention and how it might improve their teaching of problem-solving in mathematics in the future. It also focussed on how they implemented the intervention and how their students responded to the intervention. The problem-solving intervention was designed based on features identified in problem-solving literature and in discussion with the two teachers. Particular features that were incorporated into the intervention included: enabling and extending prompts; the provision of periods of time in which students were left to ‘struggle’ with trying to solve the problems themselves; and the provision of periods in which students shared problem-solving strategies with peers. The teachers were interviewed separately before and after teaching the lessons. The researcher observed all four lessons and collected student work samples from each lesson. Data was analysed using a content analysis strategy. The results suggest that the two teachers perceived that the intervention had both positive and negative impacts on their students’ problem-solving abilities. They found that the enabling prompts supported and extended their students’ thinking in the lessons and commented that their students enjoyed being challenged in the lessons. The two teachers perceived that it was often not beneficial for some of their students to struggle with problems in the lessons due to perceived resilience and confidence issues. Both teachers deviated from the intervention in the lessons in order to reduce the amount of struggle their students experienced. However, where students were given time to struggle in the lessons, they were able to formulate and record a greater range of problem-solving strategies. There appeared to be a tension for the teachers between providing time for their students to struggle with problems and preserving some of their students’ confidence. One of the teachers facilitated student share time in the middle of one of her lessons which allowed students to experience both struggle and success. This approach could serve as a compromise between these two tensions. The two teachers perceived that the intervention had a positive impact on their teaching practice. One teacher commented that she intended to implement problem-solving lessons based on the intervention in the future and the other suggested that she would incorporate more manipulatives in her problem-solving lessons.
Keywordsproblem-solving; mathematics; teaching; prompts; struggle; strategies; primary; school; challenge; lessons; perceptions
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