Can changes in my practice have a positive impact on how my pupils solve problems in mathematics?

Mulligan, Anne T. (2014). Can changes in my practice have a positive impact on how my pupils solve problems in mathematics? EdD thesis The Open University.



This Action Research came about as a result of my concerns with the difficulties my young pupils experienced when applying their mathematical skills in other contexts. Initially my research questions focused on pupils learning and asked if problem based learning could improve thinking skills in mathematics, if collaborative learning was a more effective approach than working independently and what strategies were used by pupils when solving problems.

My focus changed from examining my pupils' learning to examining my practice and as a result, four action-reflection cycles were carried out in order to bring about changes in my practice. Further key questions focused on the extent to which I used higher order questions to extend pupils' learning in mathematics and asked if increasing the number of higher order questions had an impact on their learning. I also examined the effect changing my practice had on the strategies pupils used to solve problems and the extent to which it enabled them to engage in discussions while doing so. My final research question focused in particular on generalising and the opportunities I provided for my pupils to specialise and generalise in mathematics lessons.

My research found that when my very young pupils were given an appropriately challenging problem, they could engage in collaborative dialogue with the purpose of solving that problem. Evidence from this research also demonstrates how some very young pupils have the ability to make general statements about mathematics when given a rich mathematics task and challenging questions. However, there is a gap in the literature relating to how very young pupils generalise and specialise in mathematics and my research makes a contribution towards filling this gap as it describes how I enabled my pupils to get to this stage. It also contributes to the body of knowledge available on action research as it describes how my research journey travels alongside my mathematical journey. Although it may not be generalizable in the wider context it shows what can be achieved with action research.

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