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Oxford, UKBJETBritish Journal of Educational Technology0007-1013British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 2005January 2005362317326Articles omputers and 2D geometric learning of Turkish pupilsBritish Journal of Educational Technology

British Journal of Educational Technology

Vol 36 No 2 2005

317–326

Computers and 2D geometric learning of Turkish fourth and ﬁfth graders

**Sinan Olkun, Arif Altun and Glenn Smith
**

Sinan Olkun teaches mathematics methods courses at Ankara University, Turkey. He is interested in teaching geometry and students’ geometric thinking. Arif Altun teaches at Nigde University, Turkey. His research interest includes instructional use of computers. Glenn G. Smith teaches at Stony Brook University, New York. He does research on human spatial visualisation. Address for correspondence: Sinan Olkun, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Ankara University, Cebeci, Ankara, Turkey. Tel: (+90) 312 363 3350 (ext: 230); email: olkun@education.ankara.edu.tr

Abstract This research investigated the possible impacts of computers on Turkish fourth-grade students’ geometry scores and further geometric learning. The study used a pretest–intervention–posttest experimental design. Results showed that students who did not have computers at home initially had lower geometry scores. However, these differences were minimised with an appropriate intervention containing computer-based Tangram puzzles. This suggests that at schools, it seems more effective to integrate mathematical content and technology in a manner that enables students to do playful mathematical discoveries.

Introduction Social disadvantage may be an educational handicap, which may lead to further social disadvantages. Students living in poor socio-economic areas usually have limited access to some educational resources such as computers (Olkun & Altun, 2003; Webster & Fisher, 2000). The visual nature of computers can help students develop skills useful in learning subjects with visual content such as geometry. Therefore, the current study aimed at investigating the differences a computer made on students’ geometry scores and their further learning of two-dimensional (2D) geometry. Background literature Mathematics, computers, and future success In many countries, achievement in mathematics is an important factor for students’ career development. For example, mathematics is one of the subject areas with a high proportion of items on the University Entrance Examination in Turkey. Furthermore, geometry questions occupy nearly 40% of the mathematics section in this exam. There© British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 2005. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

2005. rural schools had more resources than urban schools. in one study whilst 98% of the US 10-year-olds had computers at home. Although we do not know the exact percentages in the wider population. 1999). Webster and Fisher (2000) found a strong negative effect of rurality on student mathematics and science achievement. 2003).318 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 36 No 2 2005 fore. Yet computers are still rarely used in the classroom to teach mathematics even in so-called developed countries. contrary to common belief. and spatial thinking on educational success. and 9% received master’s degrees. 2001). it seems necessary to investigate the impact of computers on students’ geometry learning. equally strong emphasis has been placed on visual literacy. For example. Seventeen per cent of the students in the other school. They concluded that availability of school resources alone did not © British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. 2002). Fetto (2002) reports that in the USA. located in middle-low socio-economic area. students need a good score in math to be admitted to colleges. 1998). had computers at home. only 23% of those who had average eightgrade mathematics scores now have a bachelor’s degree. Recently. geometry. Facer et al (forthcoming) found that 70% of the children in the UK reported ownership of a home computer. and just 2% have a master’s degree. . For example. only 25% of the Turkish students had them (Authors. however. Olkun and Altun (2003) found striking differences amongst schools located in different socioeconomic areas within a province in Turkey in terms of student computer ownership. These cross-cultural differences of computer ownership further widen the gap amongst countries as well as amongst social classes. Battista and Clements (1998) claimed that there was a synergistic effect between numerical and spatial thinking. On the other hand. Similarly. Certain household materials are important socio-economic status (SES) indicators for exploring both individual and school-level educational effects (Yang. In still another school located in a middle socio-economic area. it is important to ﬁnd better ways to teach them. half of the students who scored in the upper quartile of their class in eight-grade mathematics went on to earn bachelor’s degrees. An important dimension in visual literacy is spatial thinking. In one school located in a poor socio-economic rural area. The positive relationship between the SES and student achievement is very well known (see. especially with the prominence of computer technologies. However. Literacy and numeracy have long been recognised as a qualiﬁcation in both schools and workplaces (FitzSimons. only 4% of the students had computers at home. Wheatley and Reynolds (1996) found close parallels between student tiling and numerical activity. which supports numerical reasoning and visual judgments (Battista et al. As the difference in computer ownership is apparent. 2003). unpublished manuscript). Similarly. many students in the USA have at least one computer at home. 27% of the students had computers at home. Given the importance of mathematics. In another survey. such as the USA (Flores et al. Yang. they found that in Australia. There is ample evidence that real and virtual manipulatives can help elementary school children learn mathematics better (Clements. By comparison.

whether at home or school. one might argue about the other reasons for the relationship between SES and achievement. but in the ways in which they were used. often seen in low SES children. had higher mathematics achievement than students from homes with fewer resources. 1989. Pribyl & Bodner. A recent research by Facer et al (2003) investigated the ways both elementary and secondary school children use home computers. However. 1978. 2005. the recent Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS. 2002) and interactive recreational opportunities. Lubinski & Yao. Rapid developments in hardware technology. He further reports that poor. increasing capacity of affordable hardware. 1999. Computers and geometry learning One of the most cited uses of computers at home is game playing (ie. hindered concentration. urban. 1987. According to the ﬁndings. Therefore. Attewell and Battle (1998). Smith. it remains to be investigated how having a computer at home and certain computer experiences affect students’ mathematics learning. Flores et al. found differences in concentration and academic achievement between low and high SES ﬁrst grade students. Selwyn. Wenglinsky (1998) claimed that the greatest inequities in computer use were not in how often they were used. 1999) reports that on average internationally. 1998). it is particularly important what purposes computers. technology may matter. Similarly. 1993. and increasingly realistic computer graphics also make game playing more attractive. Still. As Wenglinsky (1998) argued. Pearson & Ferguson. Similarly. using certain educational or otherwise recreational tools such as computers may increase students’ level of engagement in learning because the computer is a key item that provides students with many educational (Clements. are used for. but it depends on how it was used. © British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. Computer games can improve spatial skills important for geometry learning (Battista. 1990) and other academic areas (Humphreys. 1998). . for example. Breznitz and Norman (1998). The difference persisted in part to the fourth grade. between the low SES and high SES children. Pallrand & Seeber.Computers and 2D geometric learning of Turkish pupils 319 signiﬁcantly effect student achievement in mathematics and science. accentuating learning problems (Breznitz & Norman. to their concentration abilities. found a high correlation between home computers and eighth graders’ mathematical achievement. for instance. and rural students are less likely to be exposed to higher order uses of computers than nonpoor and suburban students because teachers of urban and rural students are less likely to have had professional development in technology than suburban teachers. However. 1984. They attributed the differences in comprehension and arithmetic scores. about 75% students. Mcgee. especially younger ones. They reported that aggressive–impulsive behaviours. students from homes with a high level of educational resources such as computers. use computers for playing games (at least once a week).

Computers can facilitate improvements in spatial skills that may in turn bring more success in geometry.320 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 36 No 2 2005 1964). Therefore. . 100 students from the two schools were assigned to experimental and control groups. Are there signiﬁcant differences between schools located in different socio-economic areas. Deﬁnition of terms Computer ownership Having an available computer (PC) at home for either instructional and/or recreational uses. Spatial visualization Mentally manipulating pictures of objects to solve problems with visual/geometric content. They may have used computers at school. Obviously. in terms of their geometry scores? 3. Two schools were inner city. computer treatment. Participation was entirely voluntary. Computer games can improve mental rotation and spatial visualisation (Gagnon. in terms of computer ownership and students’ initial geometry scores? 2. but intermittent results indicate that prior experience and other factors mediate such improvements. one suburban. 2005. and student geometry learning as part of mathematical achievement bear more investigation. 1985. On the basis of their pretest scores and computer experiences. Can intervention involving computer-based Tangram puzzles inﬂuence students’ scores on (i) a measure of geometry ability and (ii) on geometry learning as measured by pretest to posttest gain? Method Participants A total of 279 (224 fourth and 55 ﬁfth grade) students recruited from four school sites in a province in Turkey were pre-tested (see Figure 1). Greenﬁeld. 1994. Are there signiﬁcant differences between students who have computer experience versus those who do not. Are there signiﬁcant differences between students who have computers at home versus those who do not. the complex relationships between computer ownership. Okagaki & Frensch. © British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. students with computer experience may or may not own a computer at home. One of the schools chosen was in a low socio-economic neighbourhood. Research questions 1. Computer experience Having done anything on computers either in school or out of school. in terms of their geometry scores? 4. 1994). the other was in a middle socio-economic area. and one in a rural area.

55 students from one of the schools were also pre-tested to obtain support for the reliability and validity of the measurement instrument. so that there were equal number of students with the same mean score in each group. The pretests were administered in the spring semester near the end of April 2003. and posttest experimental design was utilised for the study (see Figure 1). Two of the groups were assigned as control and three others as experimental. in the analysis computer ownership was taken as an independent variable. treatment. students in the experimental groups solved computer-based Tangram puzzles. SES = socio-economic status Procedure A pretest. Students in the other two experimental groups (from two different school sites) had computer experience. 2005. One of the two control groups consisted of students with no computer experience and the other with computer experience. However. 224 students from the four elementary schools were pre-tested by using a geometry and spatial visualisation test. However.and posttests. depending on the time needed to acclimate to the computer and software. 5 homogenous groups formed 3 Groups experimental Solved Tangram puzzles Posttest 2 Groups control No filler activity Figure 1: Participants and procedure. one hundred of the fourth graders were purposefully selected and divided into ﬁve equivalent homogenous groups of 20 each based on their pretest scores. The students in the control group continued on in their regular classes and were not shown any of the treatment materials. Treatments were carried out in mid-May. © British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. After the treatment. The control groups were post-tested in a separate room within the same day. they did participate in the pre. Additionally. First. One of the three experimental groups contained students who did not have computer experience. which was followed by a ﬁve-minute recess. . No action was taken for computer ownership whilst assigning the groups for experimental and control groups.Computers and 2D geometric learning of Turkish pupils 321 Total 279 students from 5 school sites with different SES pre-tested 100 fourth graders selected based on their pretest scores. Then. participants took the posttest. During the treatment. The treatment time ranged from 80 to 120 minutes for each student.

the higher the SES of the school’s neighbourhood the more students have computers at home. mental rotation. There were 40 computer-based Tangram puzzles that ranged from very simple to more complex geometric shapes. number of cases = 279. was 0. was a paper-and-pencil test consisting of 29 questions on 2D geometry. 220) = 8.174. The Tukey HSD (Honestly Signiﬁcant Difference) post hoc analysis indicated statistically signiﬁcant differences between school A and school C (p < 0. 2005.001). Treatment materials The treatment provided students with the opportunity to explore and ﬁnd the relationships between 2D geometric ﬁgures. F(3. number of items = 29). spationumeric. Results The ﬁrst research question explored the differences amongst schools in different socioeconomic areas in terms of both computer ownership and students’ initial geometry scores. and informal area measurement. A one-way ANOVA test found statistically signiﬁcant differences amongst the initial geometry scores of students from the four schools investigated. The puzzles were speciﬁcally designed to improve students’ familiarity with basic 2D geometric shapes and their combinations. modiﬁed from an earlier study (Olkun. The reliability coefﬁcients obtained from the pretest with 279 students was sufﬁciently high (alpha = 0. and school B and school D (p < 0. 2003). The posttest was equivalent to the pretest. school A and school D (p < 0. Simplicity and complexity were arranged using increasingly more pieces and transformations (ie.000.042). rotations) see Figure 2.001).78. As seen in Table 1. Questions were of four types: spatial. additional validating was carried out after adding ﬁve more items. p < 0. . 2003).76. Posttest reliability.322 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 36 No 2 2005 An easy task A complex task Figure 2: An easy and complex task from the intervention Instrument The pretest. computed with 100 fourth graders. Although the test had previously been validated and checked for reliability (Olkun. It also showed that the difference between school B and school C © British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. The signiﬁcant differences between fourth and ﬁfth graders’ scores provided additional evidence for the validity of the test.

38 12. with computer ownership as the grouping variable.and ﬁfth-grade levels.70 7. This ﬁnding may indicate that the long-term use of computers may have an effect on students’ geometry learning.022 ** p < 0. an independent t-test was run.05 approached statistical signiﬁcance (p < 0. These results indicated that students who had computers at home tend to be performing better prior to any intervention.67 6.04 SD 4. .074). Whilst these results indicate a signiﬁcant difference between schools.57 t 2. yielded signiﬁcant differences at both fourth. * Possible maximum score was 29 Table 2: The relationship between computer ownership and initial geometry score Grade Fourth Fifth Computer Ownership Yes No Yes No N 41 183 13 42 % 18 82 24 76 X 10.83 7.00 Note.85 16. * p < 0.007 0.38 5. showed signiﬁcant differences between students’ geometry scores at the ﬁfth-grade level.725** 2.01. Similar results are reported in the literature (see Wenglinsky.Computers and 2D geometric learning of Turkish pupils 323 Table 1: Computer ownership and initial mean geometry scores of fourth graders across schools with different socio-economic status (SES) Schools A (middle SES) B (mid-low SES) C (low SES) D (low SES) N 124 24 51 25 224 Own computer % (n) 27 (34) 17 (4) 4 (2) 4 (1) 18 (41) Mean geometry score* 10. An independent t-test of students’ pretest geometry scores. The t-test comparing the pre.77 3. 1998). Results are presented in Table 2.68 8. To explore the third research question. but not at fourth-grade level (see Table 3). To rule out some of the effects of other SES variables. considering the fact that many students start to use computers at the fourth grade of the school investigated.11 9. 2005. one can argue that this result could be attributable to other possible controlling variables amongst different SES groups. the second research question explored the relationship between computer ownership and geometry scores.to posttest gain for the experimental versus control groups revealed a © British Educational Communications and Technology Agency.368* p 0. Therefore. another independent t-test investigating the differences in geometry scores between students with computer experiences versus those who did not.

Discussion The purpose of the present research was to investigate the impact of (a) a home computer and (b) computer experience.39) did not learn signiﬁcantly more than did the others [(mean = 2.59). but that these differences could be minimised by having students engage in using a somewhat playful computer game. F(1.02 4. 2005. p = 0.48 4.572*** p 0. The interaction between computer experience and having a computer at home on students’ gains on learning geometry was analysed by using a simple main effects analysis.83 3. Another research question was.076. 97) = 0. Those who had computers at home (mean = 2.001 N 60 40 X 3. Those who had earlier computer experience (mean = 2. p = 0.04 6.70 8. A univariate analysis of variance was applied to test the main effects between subjects.324 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 36 No 2 2005 Table 3: The relationship between computer experience and initial geometry score Grade Fourth Fifth * p < 0.73 t 1. indicating that the intervention with computer-based Tangrams facilitated geometric learning (see Table 4).131 0.05 Table 4: Independent t-test between the experimental and control groups Groups Experimental Control *** p < 0. An experimental intervention design with fourth graders was applied.33) did not learn signiﬁcantly more than those who had no access to computers at home [(mean = 2. . There is no signiﬁcant main effect for computer ownership at home.099.97) = 0. Similarly. 97) = 0.518 2. Results showed that students who had computers at home initially had signiﬁcantly higher geometry scores.50 11.145* p 0.78]. Tangram. how do computer experience and home computers affect student gains in geometric learning. © British Educational Communications and Technology Agency.54).052.08 SD 4.65 0. on fourth.95 SD 3.82]. The ﬁndings show that there is no signiﬁcant interaction between computer ownership and computer instruction interaction [F(2.905] inﬂuencing students’ scores on learning geometry. there is no signiﬁcant main effect for having any previous computer experience.50 t 3. p = 0.68 14.and ﬁfth-grade students’ initial 2D geometry scores and (c) a speciﬁc treatment on fourth graders’ further 2D geometry learning.001 Computer Experience Yes No Yes No N 125 50 32 23 % 71 29 58 42 X 9.037 signiﬁcant difference. F(1.

there is clearly a need for further research investigating the characteristics of various interventional strategies. (1990). squares. J. Battista. either concrete or computerbased (Olkun. & Furlong. (1998). Information Society 15. Visual thinking improves through purposefully manipulating objects. The Journal of Genetic Psychology 159. When used properly. . In another example. students in the experimental groups manipulated (ie. R. 1–10. and a parallelogram. P. Differences in concentration ability among low and high SES Israeli students: a follow-up study. Z. a difference in the gained scores between students who used the Tangram software and who did not was observed. V. Home computers and school performance. Teaching Children Mathematics 4. (1998). Battista. Journal of Research in Mathematics Education 21. T. If this assumption is true then it could be said that students’ disadvantages can be recovered with appropriate interventions. During the intervention. D. 258–264. H. 5. & Battle. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 1. J. G. Finding the number of cubes in rectangular cube buildings. absence of a computer at home. rotated. it appears that solving geometric puzzles with computer manipulatives has a positive effect on students’ geometric reasoning about 2D geometric shapes. (1998). (1998). T.. Consistent with the previous research (Olkun. & Norman. R.. two equilateral right triangles to make a square. M. Battista. & Borrow. Breznitz. it was very interesting to ﬁnd that students who do not have a computer at home also learned as much as those who do have a computer at home when their gain scores were considered. References Attewell. M. Students’ spatial structuring of 2D arrays of squares. & Clements. Concrete manipulatives. Clements. Arnof. such as pair work. C. Battista. © British Educational Communications and Technology Agency.. students internalised or formed solid mental images of basic geometric forms in their heads. 2005. for example. a big triangle. D. Spatial visualization and gender differences in high school geometry. The ﬁnal scores they (students without computers at home) obtained from the posttest were even slightly higher than those of others. H. Sutherland. concrete ideas. These skills are very crucial to discover the relationships amongst basic geometric shapes and their areas. 45–60. perhaps. D. Olkun & Middleton. H. ScreenPlay: Children and computing in the home. (1999). and their long-term effects on students’ gain scores. London: RoutledgeFalmer. however. In the present research. M. 82–93. Clements. students formed a parallelogram out of right triangles and rectangles or. 2003). K. moved).. During the intervention. 1998). Journal for Research in Mathematics Education 29. Given the importance of integrating computers into content area teaching.Computers and 2D geometric learning of Turkish pupils 325 Students in experimental groups learned more than those in control groups. computers may serve as important tools for improving student proﬁciency in mathematics and the overall learning environment of the school (Wenglinsky. or vice versa so that they learned that a square can be divided into equilateral right triangles. That means that they recovered some of their geometric deﬁciencies caused by. 503–532. in some cases. K. A. perhaps actively searching for the solution by turning and arranging the shapes in different orientations. T. Facer. 2003. Smith. 2003). In the details of the results. 47–60. (2003).

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