Background to the Problem
For many and varied reasons, parents, educators, policy makers and the general public are concerned about the poor performance of students at all the grade levels in the subject area of mathematics. An examination of the Grade Three Diagnostic Test 2008 administered in a rural All-Age School indicates that only 4.3% of all the students have mastered all five (5) strands of the test, while 21.7% of them have not mastered any. Whereas 0% of the males have mastered the five (5) strands in Mathematics, 15% have not mastered any. On the other hand, 7% of the females have mastered all strands, but 21.4% have not mastered any. The weakness in the overall performance of mathematics is of particular concern, especially as an understanding of the number system and the four (4) operations (addition, subtraction, division and multiplication) form the bedrock for the development of all other areas in mathematics.
The researcher will embark on an action research to support the need for teachers to use Cooperative Learning to teach Mathematics. This study will set out to investigate if cooperative learning is used correctly and consistently, and if it will yield better results in students’ performance in Mathematics.
The Cooperative Learning Method requires students’ participation and interdependence in its task, goal and reward structure. Students will be allowed to find solutions to math problems in groups and where possible formulate their own hypotheses.
The Cooperative Learning Method is characterized by cooperative task, goals and reward structures. Students in cooperative learning situations are encouraged and/or required to work together on a common task and they must coordinate their efforts to complete the task. Similarly, in cooperative learning, two or more individuals are interdependent for a reward they will share, if they are successful as a group. Cooperative learning can be characterized by the following features: o Students work in teams to master learning goals.
o Teams are made up of high-average and low achieving students. o Reward systems are oriented to the group as well as the individual. The Cooperative Learning Method was developed to achieve at least three important instructional goals: academic achievement, tolerance and acceptance of diversity and social skills development. Although cooperative learning encompasses a variety of social objectives, it also aims at improving student performance on important academic tasks. Its supporters believe that the method’s cooperative reward structure raises the value students place on academic learning and changes the norms associated with achievement. Salvin (1996) noted:
Students often do not value their peers who do well academically, while they do value their peers who excel in sports. This is so because sports success brings benefits to groups (the team, the school, the town), while academic success benefits only the individual. In fact, in class using grading on the curve or any cooperative grading or incentive system, any individual’s success reduces the chances that any other individual will succeed (p.54).
Salvin, one of the founders of cooperative learning believes that the group focus of cooperative learning can change the norms of youth culture and make it more acceptable to excel in academic learning task. In addition to changing norms associated with achievement, cooperative learning can benefit both low and high- achieving students in mathematics who work together on academic tasks. Higher achievers can tutor low-achievers, thus providing special help from peers who share youth-oriented interests. In the process, higher achievers in mathematics gain academically because serving, as a tutor requires thinking more deeply about the relationships of ideas within the subject. Statement of the Problem
Students’ mastery of the different strand in mathematics is affected by the...
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