Using mental calculation to perform the four mathematical operations: Experiences of grade 2 teachers with addition and and subtraction in selected schools in lusaka,Zambia

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Muhau, Tabakamulamu
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Since the 1980s, mathematics educators around the world have accepted the view that to develop numeracy effectively, young children need initially to use strategies for mental calculation rather than to memorise textbook procedures. The term mental calculation refers to informal, often untaught calculation methods used by children to solve a variety of arithmetic problems. This primarily qualitative study used a quasi-experimental design to assess the extent to which teachers in early primary mathematics in Zambia could adopt the use of strategies for mental calculation for double-digit addition and subtraction. The study also sought to determine the impact of teachers’ use of such strategies on pupils’ performance in mathematics. Participants were 10 Grade 2 teachers (5 from control schools and 5 from experimental schools) and 311 Grade 2 pupils. The Grade 2 pupils, 167 of whom were from experimental schools and 144 from control schools, were evenly distributed with regard to sex, age, intellectual ability and socioeconomic background. In experimental schools the study had two phases: Grade 2 teachers attended a staff development workshop to prepare them to implement the study; followed by the main study when the teachers implemented in the classroom the ideas discussed during the workshop. In control schools the same set of mathematics topics were covered, but Grade 2 teachers there used the usual textbook procedures. Data were collected through lesson observations, interviews with teachers, teachers’ journal entries, and document analysis; while pupils’ performance was assessed by means of two numeracy tests. One numeracy test was administered at the beginning of the main study, and the other at the end of the study. Results of the study suggested that over the ten-week implementation period teachers in experimental schools changed their existing beliefs about mathematics teaching and learning and to some extent their classroom practices as well, to support the use of strategies for mental calculation for double-digit addition and subtraction. Their pupils performed significantly better in the post-test compared to pupils in control schools, and developed more positive attitudes towards learning mathematics. Based on these findings, it was recommended among other things that, to show pupils that their informal solution strategies were valued, teaching in early primary mathematics should build on them. At the same time teachers should demonstrate that standard textbook procedures resulted from pupils’ informal strategies and were more efficient.
Mental arithmetic , Mental mathematical calculations