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Effects of Learning Diaries on Third Graders

Mathematical Communication and Performance


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.

Section 2: Review of Related Literature


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

Some indicators of mathematical communication are defined as follows; the ability to


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.

Section 4: Results and Discussion

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