Investigating Mathematical Maturity in Elementary School Students – A Case Study by Khadija Burhan

In 2019, a research has been conducted by Miss Khadija Burhan, Assistant Professor , Education Department (FCCU), to investigate Pakistani  elementary school students’ mathematical maturity.

The results of her preliminary research reveals alarming situation regarding the students’ mathematical immaturity in Pakistan. The results of the study depicts that most of the students were unable to link mathematics to everyday activities. One of the main reasons for such startling results was students’ inability to calculate sums mentally. The tedious task of using paper for calculation and rechecking shifts the focus of the students from the real task to mere calculations. The results suggest that there is a dire need for schools to adopt effective techniques to strengthen mental mathematics of Pakistan’s younger generation.

Ability to calculate in the head without using paper or calculator not only helps us save time in our daily lives but also keeps our brain quick and sharp. The results of various other studies show that the brain, like the muscles, gets stronger and more efficient with use.

Math Genius takes pride in being a leader and contributor in enhancing children mental growth through its specialized Abacus based training program. Just in few years it has made a considerable difference in mental calculation abilities of its students and Math Genius Team look forward to change more lives, in future.

The details of the research by Miss Khadija Burhan are as following.

Investigating Mathematical Maturity in Elementary School Students A case study

Khadija Burhan

khadijaburhan@fccollege.edu.pk

Assistant Professor

Department of Education

Forman Christian College, A Chartered University, Lahore, Pakistan

“I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”   – (Potter Stewart)

All of us a familiar with the term maturity but when we flux this term with mathematics many find it confusing and misleading. To date a comprehensive definition of this term has not been developed but there is a consensus that it is ability so it is not tangible. Student can be low, high or medium on it. It can not be learnt through books; it is based on how we treat mathematics. When we aim to develop mathematical maturity, the focus is not on getting the right answer but by asking questions, collecting other examples and non – examples.

A qualitative study was carried to investigate the mathematical maturity of elementary school students. These students were scoring above 85% marks in all school tests and exams in the subject of mathematics. Six basic questions were asked to determine how the students think about Mathematics, perceive Mathematics and their placate ability in Mathematics. The results revealed that most of the students did not find any similarity between mathematics and other subjects taught in the school. They believed that the only common factor between mathematics and other subjects was the numerical part of science. The use of mathematics in daily life was only confined to the market place for making payments and collecting the bills. Mathematics seemed to be so narrow that they believed that there is only one right answer for all math problems and if you reach the right answer you have learnt math. These students perceived mathematics as a subject based on numbers and calculations.

The results of this study highlight many areas in the practice of teaching and learning mathematics. We need to work on capacity building in our classrooms. Where we need to teach mathematics as a rewarding and lively subject, students overcome the fear of reaching the right answer and focus on the structure of concepts. It is a dilemma that simple mathematical operations themselves become a cause of anxiety in the classrooms. Students struggling with bigger numbers and complex operations stop seeing the continuity and structure of the subject.

Visit any primary classroom; the students are using another rough notebook for all the calculations. The real scenario is; firstly, they are continuously shifting their attention from one page to the other, secondly to make the calculations they are using their fingers or calculator which again is taking their attention away from the task. During this practice if they have to recheck any part of their work, they are so week in mental math they have rewrite and recalculate so going through the same tedious process again. This practice boils down all focus of the class to struggling with calculations.

Now if we visit a language class, we do not find juggling between the writing of an essay and creating of sentences for the essay. Students think in their brain and directly write, if they have to recheck some part that again is less pains taking. Grammar and words of any language are similar to mathematical operations. If we can help students develop mental operations of language structures why not adopt some strategies in mathematics classroom as well.

This is high time we start rethinking about what is happening in our mathematics classrooms. The student should be equipped with techniques to enhance their pictorial memory, boost visualization and develop concentrations. All this will require efforts inside and outside the schools. The primary years will be most important in this respect as the foundation stones of all learning is laid in this time. Help students use more tools to apply in mathematics classrooms. A community should be built to develop opportunities to learn mathematical skills beyond the four walls of a classroom, to nurture competence in calculations similar to students’ competence in using words and grammar. Only then the students will realize the similarities between math and other subjects and consider it more than a tool used at the market place. Parents also need to put in their share, this will need some role that they will play in the day to day discovering and skill-building of mathematics of their children. If a parent can narrate stories, sing poems and enjoy literature with the child, why not plays part in the progression of a child’s mathematical development. The three-stake holders; the school community and the child need to work together to find and implement effective techniques in order to pave the groundwork towards a mathematically mature society.

“Every journey starts with the first step”

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