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An action research about the effects of learning diaries on third graders’ mathematical communication and performance

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Dannah Loise C. Catucod

Medjugorje Dalan

Vixens Alphonse F. Nonato

Abstract

Section 1: Introduction

Articles online are circulating about how Filipinos lag in Math in comparison to their

other Asian counterparts. With Singapore, a close neighbor of the country, ranking number 1, the

Philippines is near the bottom of the Global Competitiveness Report list at 115th of 142 countries.

(Torregoza, 2014) The Philippines also ranked 42nd in Mathematics education of 45 countries in

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. (Torregoza, 2014) What is keeping us

away from the top of these indices?

Statement of the Problem

The Mean Percentage Score (MPS) of the population of Grade 3 pupils of the Philippines

last SY 2011-2012 was only 56.98 which is an alarming number knowing that in the Philippines

we consider 75 as a failing mark in students report cards. (NETRC DepEd, 2012) In spite that,

MPS for Mathematics of the said pupils was at 59.87 which is a little higher than the overall

MPS but still alarming. (NETRC DepEd, 2012) That being said, the researcher focused on

developing the strength of the population first before tackling the other subjects that they need to

improve on.

Purpose of the Study

This action research study aimed to determine the effects of using learning diaries on

third graders understanding of mathematical concepts, their ability to communicate their

mathematical thinking, and their achievement and performance in the learning area. The purpose

of the study is to assess the development of the aforementioned mathematical skills of the

students.

Context

The chosen site is San Vicente Elementary School which is a public school. The

researcher expect to study two classes from either Grade 2 or 3 in the school mentioned wherein

there are about 50 students in each class. They are chosen as participants because they do not

have mathematical resources that can improve their mathematical abilities.

Research Questions

1. Did the mathematical performance of the students improve after the introduction of the

learning diaries?

2. Did the mathematical communication of the students improve after the introduction of

the learning diaries?

Research Hypothesis

The research hypothesis is that the mean posttest score of the class that used learning

diaries (C1) is higher than the mean posttest score of the class that didnt use learning diaries

(C2). In symbols HR: C1 > C2

Whereas, the null hypothesis is that there is no significant difference between the mean

posttest scores of the two classes. In symbols; H0: C1 = C2 .

The hypothesis will be tested at = 0.05

Definition of Terms

Three key terms are to be defined for this study. First, mathematical performance refers

to the students achievement in classroom assessments. This is usually reflected in their scores in

exams but can also be perceived when responding to mathematical problems.

Second, in this study, mathematical communication is primarily defined as the ability to

explain or clarify mathematical ideas, and to understand mathematical representations

meaningfully (Qohar & Sumarmo, 2013). This refers to the students ability to share what they

understood using their own words. This can be communicated in many ways; through speech,

through written text, or through drawings (Kostos & Shin, 2010).

Lastly, the learning diaries are the collection of notes, observations, and thoughts of the

students about their individual learning experience. These are used as reflection guides for both

the students and the teachers. These are commonly called learning journals, but we decided to

use the term diary because we believe it is a word more familiar to the third graders.

Significance of the Study

The findings of this action research can contribute to the promotion of self-regulation

(even in its simplest form through learning diaries) in grade school classrooms. It will determine

if the use of learning diaries will indeed be helpful to the students and teachers. This will be of

help to the students in improving their understanding of mathematical concepts, eventually

learning how to apply their mathematical thinking in various contexts, and to the teachers who

will be provided assessment of their teaching methods and strategies through the learning diaries

and thus will be able to adjust to their students needs.

Factors Affecting Students Mathematical Performance

Studies have repeatedly shown that mathematics anxiety among schoolchildren greatly

affects their performance and achievement in the mathematics subject area. Mathematics anxiety

is the feelings of fear, avoidance, and/or dread when it comes to dealing with situations that are

related to mathematics. Such feelings are likely to further affect the students affinity towards

mathematics and thus might make them avoid enhancing their mathematical abilities altogether.

A study by Zakaria, Zain, Ahmad and Erlina (2012) noted that the inevitable uncertainty of an

assessment (e.g. a test) causes the students to worry.

Indeed, findings showed the inverse correlation of the students anxiety levels and their

achievements; students who have high anxiety levels tend to score lower while those who have

low anxiety levels tend to score higher. This is because high-achievers are more confident with

their understanding of mathematics than low-achievers. The students understanding of

mathematics is a key factor in their performance (Zakaria, Zain, Ahmad, & Erlina, 2012).

Of course, greatly shaping the students understanding is the quality of teaching they

receive. While the classroom discourse is highly controlled by the teacher doing most of the

talking, it can still be improved through effective questioning techniques. In addition to this, the

students curiosity must be encouraged, developed, and fostered in order for them to form

productive mathematical dispositions. Furthermore, a study by Capraro, Capraro, Carter and

Harbaugh (2010) found that a teachers ability to probe for understanding and elicit their

students curiosity is related to their competence in the field; a teacher who has weaker content

competence might engage less in effective questioning.

The Problem with Students Mathematical Communication

express a situation into mathematical language (and vice versa), the ability to listen, discuss and

write about mathematics, the ability to explain or clarify mathematical ideas, and the ability to

understand mathematical representations meaningfully (Qohar & Sumarmo, 2013). Further

affirming the positive use of probing for understanding stated in the earlier section, Pugalee (as

cited in Qohar & Sumarmo, 2013) suggested that students should be encouraged to answer

questions with reason and should be allowed to answer in their own languagemeaning, in a

way they understood the concept and not as a mere reiteration of what the teacher said.

While mathematics understanding and performance indeed have a positive correlation

(Zakaria, Zain, Ahmad, & Erlina, 2012), there are times when being able to perform well in

mathematics does not mean being able to understand the concepts perfectly. It is possible that a

student can solve mathematical problems in number sentences but be unable to translate their

understanding into a different form. For example, Zollman (2009) opened his paper by noting

that middle grades students feel anxious when confronted with word problems.

The students fear in applying the abstract concepts they just learnt into more concrete

situations showed that they were having difficulties transferring the learning and most likely

didnt understand the concepts too well. To solve this problem, Zollman conducted an action

research wherein he introduced the use of graphic organizers which goals were to structure the

concepts the students already know and the information they are presented with, and to identify

missing information or absent connections.

The graphic organizers indeed helped the students construct content and strategic

knowledge and improved their communication of mathematical thinking. The learning journal

works in the same vein as the graphic organizers but is more focused on showing what the

students understood from a specific lesson which they can likewise apply and transfer to a more

concrete situation.

Using Learning Journals to Improve Mathematical Skills

There had been numerous action researches conducted by mathematics teachers that

studied how students learn mathematics through learning journals. It had been repeatedly

concluded that learning journals indeed have the potential to be of aid to students despite the

need for a large amount of time for teachers to examine them and provide adequate feedback

(Koirala, 2002).

Primarily, the journals help the students demonstrate their understanding of mathematical

concepts and communicate their thinking processes. They solicit the students cognitive and

affective mathematical thinking. In a way, this reviews what the students have learned for the day

and can make them reflect on what they were and were not able to do (Koirala, 2002).

In addition to this primary use, the teachers are able to assess how they taught their

lessons. The journals will show them what the students understood, what they didnt understand,

what they like or dislike about the topic, and/or their general concerns about the lessons. By

taking these as assessment of their teaching, the teachers will be able to adjust/improve

classroom instruction in a way that will be beneficial to the students (Koirala, 2002).

Section 3: Methodology

This research focused on the effects of using learning diaries on Grade 3 students

communication of mathematical thinking skills and their academic performance on the learning

area. Mills (2011) described action researches as systematic inquiries conducted by educators for

the purposes of gathering information about how they teach and how their students learn in order

to improve some aspect of learning, and while this one is labeled as such, the researchers were

not directly involved with the implementation of the treatment because of time constraints.

The experiment was conducted during the month of March and given that this was the

closing month of the school year, the researchers decided not to request for ample time to

implement the study so as not to impede with the pacing of their classroom instruction.

Consequently, insights that can possibly be obtained from the learning diaries may or may not

have been utilized to improve instruction and it was decided upon not to analyze this factor.

Research Design

This study used a quantitative approach which Creswell (2003) explained to be an

approach in which the researchers employ strategies of inquiry that yield statistical data. This

study was able to gather both quantitative and qualitative data but only the former were analyzed

in-depth.

Participants and Setting

The settings for this research are two Grade 3 mixed-ability classes in a public school in

Quezon City, Manila, Philippines. There were 43 students in one section while there were 46

students in the other section. The 43-student class will serve as the treatment group and will

receive the learning diaries treatment while the other class will serve as the control group.

Procedure

The entire duration of the study is just three days. The participants in both control and

treatment groups received traditional classroom instruction. The treatment group was given an

additional task of a take-home assignment.

Each student in the treatment group received one sheet of paper that has the question

Ano ang natutunan mo ngayong araw? (What did you learn today?) after every class meeting.

These served as the learning diaries. The students were allowed to take the diaries home and

were free to answer the question in whatever way they wished (e.g. through words, illustrations).

The diaries will be returned to the teacher the next class meeting.

At the end of the third day, both control and treatment groups were given a short quiz

about the past three days lessons.

Data Gathering

In this study, data gathering methods included (1) pre-math assessment and post-math

assessment and (2) the students math diaries.

Again, because of the problem with time, the math assessment used for the study is the

average score of each class in the most recent mathematics periodic examination. The pre-math

assessment was used to determine if there is any significant difference between the two classes

mathematical performance before the treatment and to determine if there is significant change in

mathematical performance of the treatment group after the treatment.

Likewise, the post-math assessment used for the study is the average score of the each

class in a quiz given by their teachers a week after the study started. The post-math assessment

was also used to determine if there is significant change in mathematical performance of the

treatment group after the treatment and to determine if there is any significant difference between

the two classes mathematical performance after the treatment.

Data Analysis

The data gathered from the pre- and post- math assessments were analyzed using

Pearsons r. The use of learning diaries is the independent variable in the study while the

students mathematics performance served as the dependent variable. The hypothesis was tested

at = 0.05. Meanwhile, the data gathered from the treatment groups learning diaries was

analyzed using KJ Analysis.

References

Capraro, M. M., Capraro, R. M., Carter, T., & Harbaugh, A. (2010). Understanding, questioning,

and representing mathematics: What makes a difference in middle school classrooms?.

RMLE Online, 34(4), 119.

Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method

approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Koirala, H. P. (2002). Facilitating student through math journals.

Kostos, K., & Shin, E. (2010). Using math journals to enhance second graders communication

of mathematical thinking. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38(3), 223231.

Leidinger, M., & Perels, F. (2012). Training self-regulated learning in the classroom:

Development and evaluation of learning materials to train self-regulated learning during

regular mathematics lessons at primary school. Education Research International.

Mills, G. E. (2011). Action research: A guide for the teacher researcher (4th ed.). Boston:

Pearson.

Qohar, A., & Sumarmo, U. (2013). Improving mathematical communication ability and self

regulation learning of junior high students by using reciprocal teaching. Indonesian

Mathematical Society Journal on Mathematics Education, 4(1), 5974.

Zakaria, E., Zain, N. M., Ahmad, N. A., & Erlina, A. (2012). Mathematics anxiety and

achievement among secondary school students. American Journal of Applied Sciences,

9(11), 1828-1832.

Zollmen, A. (2009). Students use graphic organizers to improve mathematical problem-solving

communications. Middle School Journal, 41(2), 412.

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