Simplification and Repetition of Mathematical Tasks: A Recipe for Success or Failure?

Houssart, Jenny (2002). Simplification and Repetition of Mathematical Tasks: A Recipe for Success or Failure? Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 21(2) pp. 191–202.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0732-3123(02)00116-5

Abstract

This study combines sociological and psychological perspectives in an emergent framework, to study the teaching of low-attaining 9 and 10 year olds. Participant observation of a small group of children during a 6 week block of work on fractions was used to analyse their performance trajectory. Critical incidents are utilised to analyse shifting teacher-children interactions. While responses to oral questions demonstrated initial proficiency, proficiency was lower for equivalent written tasks. Student performance on such tasks progressively declined. The teacher attempted to reduce the level of task difficulty to ensure success on written tasks. However, a consequent attitudinal change among children led to poorer performance. Thus, task simplification led, via associated normative changes, to declining performance. The teaching strategy was counter-productive.

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