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Devraj Ujoodha Supervisor: Miss Salehmohamed B.

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 Research Title

The proposed title: “An exploration of ‘Symbolab’ in the learning of ‘Quadratics: An Action Research at
Grade 12.”

The Research Questions

The research questions I intend to investigate are:

1. What are the difficulties encountered by students in “Quadratics”?


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

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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:

 Identify a problem to be studied


 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

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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.

2. Crombie’s “Descartes” (Scientific American, October 1959) or Chapter 4 in M. Kline’s (ed.)


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