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Ed Maths FT 2017-18

Research aim and design

I will do my research in grade 12 (sixth year) in a school in the Plaine Wilhems where I am

actually posted for my SBE. I realised that many students have not yet grasped the concept of curve

sketching. When asked, they say that they learn the graphs by heart and reproduce it for the exams

just to score the marks.

In the context of my research, I am proposing the use of a software called ‘Symbolab’ in the chapter

‘Quadratics’ at grade 12. “As we sail through the 21st century, technology in the classroom is becoming

more and more predominant. Tablets are replacing our textbooks, and we can research just about anything

that we want to on our Smartphone. Social media has become commonplace, and the way we use

technology has completely transformed the way we live or lives” (Cox. J. 2016). Graph sketching in

Quadratics is a topic that requires visual aid. Cox says that a student can go about a challenge in education

by using a Smartphone. ‘Symbolab’ is a free software available on all Smartphone (Android, IOS, Windows

phone...) and also on desktop computers. It is also accessible through the URL ‘Symbolab.com’.

‘Symbolab’ works by writing the formula through a keyboard and the program solves the problem. It also

works by taking a snap of the problem. This software can be used to teach all the chapters in pure

mathematics and some function can even solve word problems. The advantage of ‘Symbolab’ is that it only

displays the answers and not the steps. During the course of my TDS and BEd, I have examined a myriad of

examiners reports and marking schemes. More marks are given for steps and not for answers. Even in

textbooks, the answers are already given by the author; students have to work out the various steps. Thus,

‘Symbolab’ is very good interactive software as it omits the steps but gives details not asked though, which

might be helpful.

The proposed title: “An exploration of ‘Symbolab’ in the learning of ‘Quadratics: An Action Research at

Grade 12.”

2. To what extent does ‘Symbolab’ enhances the learning of ‘Quadratics’ at Grade

12? 3. What are the opportunities and challenges faced when implementing ‘Symbolab’?

Literature review and problem statement

One problem in this chapter is that students fail to read and understand the concept of the question

asked. This has to do with linguistic inabilities of certain students. They fail to understand the question

properly and they cannot conceptualise the solution. Newman (2000) says that problems in linguistic

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Devraj Ujoodha Supervisor: Miss Salehmohamed B.Ed Maths FT 2017-18

fluency and conceptual understanding that correspond with level of simple reading and understanding

meaning of problems is a serious issue. As a matter of fact, as I mentioned earlier, quadratics is a

prerequisite for many chapters. Students fail to recognise the hidden quadratic equation in some examples.

For example, if a student is solving some problem and gets an equation like 𝑥 4 + 𝑎𝑥 2 + 𝑏 = 0, he may not

be able to recognise the hidden quadratic that can be formed by substituting 𝑦 = 𝑥 2 and obtaining a simple

quadratic. Thus, I can conclude that students tend to stick to their books and notes while working and they

fail to use their logic and concepts to solve relatively more complex questions.

Furthermore, the most common type of learning difficulties in factorisation includes comprehension

error, transformation error and process skill error, according to Zakaria (2010). The terminologies have been

coined by Newman (2000). Student have problem with wordings, they often confuses words and if

synonyms are used they suddenly find new meanings to the question. For example, if we say ‘express in

terms of’ instead of ‘factorise’ students may get mislead. Zakaria (2010) argues that that this weakness is

probably because of the lack of emphasis by teachers in the factorisation process. He says that teaching of

concepts must be balanced with arithmetic skills and if we go in that direction, we also notice that students

have difficulties with signs in the brackets. They do not know when to put minus and when to put plus.

They have learnt the concepts but failed at the arithmetic. This problem is more redundant among low

achievers. During my SBE, I had the chance to correct a test involving the aforementioned chapter. I have

noticed that the concept is correct, the process is correct but when they write the final answer, they

randomly put the signs. These types of learning difficulties are also true for sub topics like solving

equations, completing the square and so on.

Finally, another major learning difficulty students have is the formulation of quadratics expression

from word problems. Students tend to misinterpret the problem and come up with wrong answers. This type

of learning difficulty may arise from the formulation of the question with a twist, or simply, students know

only one kind of word problem and if we twist that a tiny bit, they get lost. A 2015 study among 217

students from Turkish schools of the same grade showed that symbolic equations were better answered and

attempted than word problems. The main issue with symbolic questions were associated with arithmetic and

algebraic manipulation while in the word problems many students were unable to understand the situation

and context of the question and they fail to formulate the required quadratics expression.

Methodology

For my research, I will do a qualitative research because the population I will observe is small (20

students). Also, as mentioned above, the purpose of this research is to observe the proposed research

questions in a class and to interpret the result in a qualitative approach. Also, qualitative research involves

few variables and the procedure used ensures validity and reliability. Qualitative research provides a rich

2

Devraj Ujoodha Supervisor: Miss Salehmohamed B.Ed Maths FT 2017-18

and detailed picture of the problem to be analysed and it dives deeper into the problem so that I can

understand what is actually causing the misconceptions and learning difficulties of the students.

The method of research I am going to use is an action research. The Cycle 1 is as follows:

Collect data on the problem

Organize, analyze, and interpret the data

Develop a plan to address the problem

Implement the plan

Evaluate the results of the actions taken

Identify a new problem

Repeat the process

For the purpose of my research, this type of research will be very much beneficial as the

problem will be identified, data will be collected, organised and interpreted, using the initial cycle. I

will then devise a plan on how to implement ‘Symbolab’ in the classroom and implement the plan.

The results will be evaluated and I can carry out the same process over and over again with

reflection in the second cycle. Actions research is also less formal, prescriptive, and theory-driven.

The goal is to address practical issues in a defined classroom. It is more focused and not impartial.

Future actions are also guided. This method is much closed, and can be expanded in the very small

network, say a school, and thus, it identifies case to case problems rather that proposing a globalised

solution to a problem. I believe that an action research is best for my research.

The first data collection method I will use is a very basic one, observational research on the

field. Observational research is a non-experimental research done on the field by observing the

behaviours of the participants. In my choice of paradigm I will observe my participants’ behaviours

in their natural contexts. There will be no attempt from my part to modify the natural setting of the

participants, that is, I will not intervene to modify any variables. This will allow getting first hand

information on the topic of ‘Quadratics’ as it is traditionally taught.

The second method I will be using is written tests. After observing and collecting data, I will

perform a diagnostic written test, which is a test before the implementation of the software. The test

will be a normal one with an exam setting on a limited time. “Results from a diagnostic test can

provide with concrete data to set realistic goals and to help determine the appropriateness of

pursuing a particular test” (SAT, 2017).

The third method to be used for data collection is interviews. I will interview my participants orally

and ask them in which part of the topic they find it more difficult to learn the concepts of quadratics. I will

then compare the results of the interview with the first written test and plan the lesson with the software

3

Devraj Ujoodha Supervisor: Miss Salehmohamed B.Ed Maths FT 2017-18

accordingly. Interviews are useful because detailed information is gathered about personal feelings,

opinions and perception.

Lastly, before the implementation of the lesson with the software, to gather all the information

needed before the preparation of the lesson, I will propose an anonymous questionnaire to my participants.

John Milne (1999) says that “The responses are gathered in a standardised way, so questionnaires are more

objective, certainly more so than interviews.” There is written evidence of the data gathered, and can hence

be interpreted and stored very easily. The fact that I will make the questionnaire anonym will allow my

participants to express themselves as freely as possible.

There are two main types of sampling used in the qualitative paradigm - purposive sampling and

quota sampling. In purposive sampling, the researcher starts with a certain perspective in mind. The latter

then looks for the participants. In my case, the perspective I have in mind is a grade 12 class of students

taking mathematics as their main subject. I will also ensure that the topic of ‘Quadratics’ has recently been

taught in the class. Patton (1990, p.169) says that “qualitative inquiry typically focuses in depth on relatively

small samples, selected purposefully”. Since my sample is small (around 20 participants), this type of

sampling procedure will work. Purposive sampling can also focus on participants who meet very specific

criteria, and as I said earlier, my criteria of research are very specific. Furthermore, purposive sampling uses

personal judgement to choose participants who will help me meet my aims and objectives and answer my

research questions.

Quota sampling is a sampling method used to gather representative information from a specific

group. Quota sampling makes the data very reliable because it can represent a large population. In quota

sampling, the participants need to match a certain criteria. Thus, by gathering information from my small

group of 20 students, I will be able to map the performance of students in all Grade 12 classes of that school

and I can implement my lesson plan to any grade 12 mathematics student of that school. This will allow me

to save time and is quicker in that I will not have to wait for a specific grade 12 class to perform my

research, I can guess the performance of other grade 12 classes with the sampling procedure and implement

my research. I will be doing the research during the first term of school as it is during this time that the

students do said chapter.

References

1. Babbie, Earl R. The Practice of Social Research. 12th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage, 2010;

Muijs, Daniel. Doing Quantitative Research in Education with SPSS. 2nd edition. London: SAGE

Publications, 2010.

Mathematics in the Modern World (1968), pp. 33-39

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Devraj Ujoodha Supervisor: Miss Salehmohamed B.Ed Maths FT 2017-18

3. NCTM’s Historical Topics for the Mathematics Classroom (1969): “Analytic geometry” (pp. 180-

182), “Equations and the Ways They were written” (pp. 260-263), and “Algebra in Europe, 1200-

1850” (pp. 309-311)

4. Schaum. 2010. standard deviation and variance. [ONLINE] Available at:

http://www.quickmba.com/stats/standard-deviation/. [Accessed 29 January 2017].

5. Stokes Parent, J., 2015. Students' Understanding Of Quadratic Functions: Learning From Students'

Voices. 1st ed. Vermont: Univesity of Vermont.

6. Sundaram KR, Dwivedi SN, Sreenivas V. 1st ed. New Delhi: B.I Publications Pvt Ltd; 2010.

Medical statistics principles and methods.

7. Swinscow TD, Campbell MJ. (Indian) 10th ed. New Delhi: Viva Books Private Limited; 2003.

Statistics at square one.

8. Various Authors. 2017. Qualitative Research Methods Overview. [ONLINE] Available at:

https://course.ccs.neu.edu/is4800sp12/resources/qualmethods.pdf. [Accessed 10 February 2017].

9. Zakaria, E., 2010. Analysis of Students’ Error in Learning of Quadratic Equations. 3rd ed. Malaysia:

Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

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