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Engaging Mathematics Learners: An Alternative Approach for the

Teaching of Fractions in the Primary School Classroom

Arif Hong, Nora Teo, Wendy Siah
Compassvale Primary School, Singapore
This action research paper presents a report on a study that aims to investigate how incorporating
teacher-developed activities ased on the theory of !ultiple "ntelligences #!"$ impacts learners%
motivation and attitude in the learning of !athematics& The data collected in the initial stage of the
research was elicited from '( pupils in two Primary ) classes& The assessment instruments included
a *uestionnaire to provide a etter understanding of the pupils, interviews of selected pupils, written
and veral feedac+ from the pupils, teachers% oservations, video clips of lessons and lesson
The research has progressed into its second stage& The current study singles out the topic,
,-ractions%, as a research focus& -eedac+ gathered from the school%s teachers has identified it as
one of the topics that many pupils find difficult to understand and apply& -eedac+ gathered from
pupils has also revealed a relatively low confidence level when they need to deal with !athematics
*uestions that involve the topic& The data collected was elicited from ./ pupils in another Primary )
class& Assessment instruments used are similar to those used in the initial stage - survey form,
interview, feedac+ on lessons from pupils, lesson oservations, teachers% oservations, with the
addition of a *uestionnaire to find out the pupils% confidence levels when dealing with different
!athematics topics& The study loo+s into whether transforming the way ,-ractions% is taught may
result in a etter understanding and application of the topic, as well as a positive impact on learners%
motivation and attitude&
The teaching and learning of !athematics generally occurs in the confines of the classroom&
!athematics instruction in Singapore tends to e a content-driven process, rather than a creative
one& There is a need for teachers to understand the learners% states of mind and differences in
intelligences, and motivation is of paramount importance& As teachers, we need to stimulate
creatively through music, movement, real-life situations and a multi-sensory environment, so
learning of !athematics can ecome fun and relate to real-life situations&
Creating the right environment is important for the development of a child #0u1an, 2((.$& This is
especially so for less mathematically-inclined students who are often lost in the teacher-directed
rote-learning of !athematical concepts and repetitive mechanical computations of formulae and
facts& 3avid 4a1ear advocates that 5Intelligence is a multiple reality& 3r Howard 6ardner and his
team of Harvard researchers involved in Pro7ect 8ero have postulated that there are many forms of
intelligence 9 many ways y which we +now, understand and learn aout our world, not 7ust one&
3r Howard 6ardner proposed a schema of eight intelligences #!ultiple "ntelligences 9 !"$ and
suggests that there are proaly many others that we have not yet een ale to test #4a1ear, ://:$&
According to the Singapore !athematics Syllaus for Primary Schools #!;<, 2((:$, 5the primary
aim of the Mathematics curriculum is to enable students to develop their ability in mathematical
problem solving. The attainment of problem solving ability is dependant on five interrelated
components Concepts, Skills, rocesses, !ttitudes and Metacognition. Hence, the team hopes
that y addressing the ,attitude% in the learning of !athematics, through the teacher-developed
activities ased on the theory of !", learners will e fully engaged in their learning, understand
concepts etter and most importantly, en7oy the learning of !athematics&
Profile of Pupils
The research is carried out in a neighourhood school where the pupils are mostly from middle-
income families& The second stage egan with 2 *uestionnaires that were administered to a Primary
) class of ./ pupils& These :( year-old pupils are of mi=ed-aility& The term mi=ed-aility refers to
the pupils% academic performance which ranges from elow-average to average& There are :) girls
and 2> oys in the class&
nderstanding the Pupils
?uestionnaire : 9 !y Strengths
"n this *uestionnaire, each of the eight intelligences in the !" theory is represented y two
characteristic ailities #see Appendi= :$& The pupils identified what they perceived themselves to e
good at or en7oy doing& They could indicate as many ailities as they thought appropriate& ;ut of
the si=teen ailities listed, the following si= were chosen y more than half of the pupils as one of
their strengths@ ,Playing sports%, ,!a+ing friends%, ,Wor+ing with others as a group%, ,Solving
7igsaw pu11les%, ,3rawing% and ,Playing chess or other strategy games%& These ailities represented
the 0odilyABinesthetic, "nterpersonal, CisualASpatial and !athematicalA4ogical "ntelligence
respectively& The pupils% dominant intelligences were thus identified&
The "nterview
As a follow-up to the aove *uestionnaire, the team conducted interviews to gain a etter
perspective of the pupils% responses #see Appendi= 2$& :: pupils #2'D$ were pic+ed at random to e
3uring the interviews, only aout :'D of the pupils mentioned !athematics as one of the su7ects
that they are interested in while '2D chose other su7ects such as Science, 4anguages and Health
and Physical <ducation& This shows that the pupils have little interest in !athematics& The team
proed further to find out which aspects of the pupils% favourite su7ects captured their interest&
3rawing on the pupils% responses, the team ac*uired a etter understanding of how to ma+e learning
!athematics more interesting and hence engage the pupils in the process& 4in+s with the various
aspects of !" were estalished&
?uestionnaire 2 9 !athematics Topics
The second *uestionnaire re*uired the pupils to identify the level of difficulty for the different
!athematics topics which they had learnt the previous year& The topic for the research%s focus was
thus identified #see Appendi= .$& The research team then set out to develop lessons on the topic
,-ractions% that incorporated activities more attuned to the pupils% dominant intelligences& Written
and veral feedac+ from the pupils, video clips of lessons and lesson oservations were then used
to study the impact of the different teaching approach&
We would li+e to than+ 3r -an 4ianghuo of National "nstitute of <ducation of Singapore for his
invaluale advice and guidance in this action research&
"u#an, T. $%&&'(. 0rain Child@ How Smart Parents !a+e Smart Bids& 6reat 0ritain@ Thorsons
Curriculum lanning ) *evelopment *ivision, Ministry of +ducation, %&&,
Ministry of +ducation $%&&,(. !athematics Syllaus& Singapore- M.+
/a#ear, *. $,00,, ,000(. <ight Ways of Teaching& The Artistry of Teaching with !ultiple
"ntelligences& Third +dition. Sky/ight Training and ublishing Inc.
!ppendi1 ,
Statements $%&
:& 4istening to music and rememering the tune )2
2& Singing .2
.& Playing sports EF
)& 3ancing :'
>& !a+ing friends F'
F& Wor+ing with others as a group >.
E& Wor+ing on your own >(
'& Setting goals for yourself and achieving them 2/
/& <=plaining things to others and helping them to understand ./
Writing )E
Solving 7igsaw pu11les >'
3rawing FF
Naming animals and plants .)
Ta+ing care of the environment )>
Solving !aths prolems )>
Playing chess or other strategy games F.
Numer of pupils interviewed@ :: Appendi' (
,hy do you li!e the su)*ect- .o" can your Maths lesson )e
as interesting as the su)*ect+s
you are interested in-
fun and interesting, get to ,play toys%-use
alance when learning numer notation
played games on times tale 9 loved the
play games
teach in a different way
do different things when
learning !aths
do !aths ,e=periment% 9 use
plastic cut-outs to learn
fractions #home e=perience$
" can learn etter y doing
give more practice
have fun during lesson
go outside the classroom
li+e the Physical <ducation
use computer 9 can see the
colour, pictures and words
go to the !aths room 9 can
see many things on the walls
very interesting, many things to do&
other than in the classroom, get to go to the
science laoratory
en7oys doing e=periments 9 li+e to touch
and try& -ather rings me to the 1oo and let
me touch the animals% ody&
learn aout animals, plants and matter-
solid, li*uid and gases
easier than !aths
Science is easy and fun- " can do
e=periments 9 use magnets and play with
it, ma+ing paper clips to ecome magnets
Teacher shows the real things in class and
we do e=periments e&g& plants& " li+e
play games 9 do activities
inside and outside the
play !aths games 9 go out
of the classroom 9 !aths
room or foyer
use things #manipulatives$ to
learn !aths li+e in Science
use cards to show numers
#can see$
use things e&g& stic+sAsweets
to count
group wor+ 9 wor+ing
together with friends
go to !aths room 9 " don%t
li+e to stay in class all the
time& " li+e to move around
and learn things outside the
classroom that has
something to do with !aths
learn !aths outside the
4anguage 9
en7oys spelling during Chinese lesson 9
get to use the language
" li+e to spea+ in <nglish to my friends
<nglish and !alay are easier than !aths
Chinese is easy 9 li+e to write in Chinese
can practise y 7ust reading the te=too+
easier than !aths and Science 9 " can get
full mar+s
" li+e reading
en7oys swimming and learn aout health
can play games with friends
get to go out of the classroom 9 to the field
can do e=ercises 9 go outside the
classroom and " get to move aout
Physical <ducation is fun 9 many games to
play 9 can go to the field and run aout
Health <ducation 9 learn aout ody parts
and how to ta+e of myself e&g& which food
is good
" li+e to play and e=ercise
Appendi' /

Easy Average Difficult
1 2 3 4 5
Mean = 1.51
Mean = 2.21
Mean = 2.33
FRACTIONS Mean = 3.44
AREA & PERIMETER Mean = 3.26
BAR GRAPHS Mean = 1.69
Mean = 3.10