Lots of interesting reading comes through the literacy online feed. Literacy is so important for academic achievement and we all need to be teachers of literacy and language.  If students struggle with reading and writing so many things become a challenge.

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reposted from NZ Secondary literacy online (February 19) with permission

RNZ’s February 16th article, Why can’t kiwi kids do maths? provides commentary on the recent concerns around the mathematic ability of our learners as they leave primary level. It does note the differences between what is taught in Singapore versus what is taught in Aotearoa, and that the measure is “crude”, but acknowledges the slow decline in recent years. Local research is showing a similar pattern. Principal’s are looking to central government for guidance on how to address this.  In this vein, I have looked this week to impacts on learners mathematical outcomes. The first article look at the classroom context for lower ability learners, the second analyses the relationship between mathematics and science literacy and ICT variables and the final article addresses the other end of the mathematical spectrum, with the higher achievers.
Literature and commentary
The University of Helsinki has found certain factors in the mathematics classroom can impact student achievement patterns. Development of low-stakes mathematics and literacy test scores during lower secondary school – A multilevel pattern-centered analysis of student and classroom differences from Ketonen and Hotulainen (2019) showed that aside from individual characteristics, the classroom factors such as classroom placement and peer factors can have a stronger effect on student test scores. The study has an address of previous research on class placement and composition, teacher expectations and classroom climate, and peer effect. There were 5464 participants in this study, from 504  classrooms within 117 schools at lower secondary level. In brief the findings of the study showed that the “context and classmates seem to play a bigger role in the classrooms having more low achieving students, indicating a potential risk for increasing achievement gap between lower secondary school classrooms.” This means that practice of class placement of students (whether deliberate or unintentional) is creating “further educational inequality in terms of heterogenous compositional effects”. In classrooms with high achievers the variance in text score development was explained by individual factors rather than classroom context, however those in classes with mainly “low performers or more homogeneity in terms of achievement, the contextual effect is clearly stronger.” If you want to read in greater depth about the study the link above provides access.
The Investigation of the Relationship between Mathematics and Science Literacy and Information and Communication Technology Variables from Kogar (2018) begins by addressing the significant role Information and communication technology (ICT) plays in all spheres of life, including the field of education. They state that “these kinds of (ICT) resources have gained increasing importance because educational developments should reflect individuals’ needs, expectations and interests.” For the study the method used was the “Chi-squared Automatic Interaction Detection method (CHAID), and the CHIAD analysis was to identify what ICT items related to mathematics literacy scores”, it was revealed that there was a significant relationship between mathematics literacy scores and the eight variables. For science literacy, there was ten significant relationship variables. One of these factors across both subject areas was that students using ICT tools to communicate with their teachers on social network, outside class are likely to deviate from these platforms when they were online – which can be time consuming, and distract, impacting outcomes. It was revealed that using digital devices and the internet for education purposes had a positive effect on mathematic literacy scores (when used in school).Koger states that based on these findings, “it can be concluded that there is a relationship between mathematics literacy scores and the conditions of ICT being available at school, ICT being used outside of school for homework and students’; perceived ICT competence.” The author found that of the science variables, the one that “yielded” the most important relationship with science literacy scores was the ‘Frequency of use outside of school: Using Social Networks for communication with teachers. This was similar to the finding for the same variable in Mathematics. There was a decrease in students’ science literacy scores as the frequency of students use of social network for communication with their teachers increased. “The higher the frequency of students’ use of digital devices outside school for downloading new apps on a mobile device was, the lower the students’ science literacy score was” In summary the study found concluded that the presence of devices in the school does not increase the students” science and mathematics literacy scores necessarily.
Research into Students’ perceptions of their experiences from within acceleration programs in mathematics from Peter Rawlins of Massey University, offers investigation into the needs of gifted and talented students – and discusses acceleration versus enrichment as methods. Beyond this it also takes feedback from learners on what have traditionally been the points of opposition for acceleration within mathematics. There is commentary also on the degree to which learners capability and acceleration, impacted their interest. Rawlins states that in practice as a teacher he held “a number of concerns” about the suitability of acceleration programs for meeting the needs of all gifted and talented students. The common critiques of acceleration for mathematics students are that it does not allow students to work at their own level and pace. Also identified as a concern that acceleration programs are often assumed to “have the same purpose and end result for all students so they are all presented with the same material” in which case limited attention is paid to individual needs.
What the research shows is that acceleration “poses no direct risk to their social and emotional development.” Research also suggests that children who are gifted and talented, but that are not accelerated exhibit more behaviour problems, feel less comfortable and have poorer attitudes to school. Those students that participated in the program (acceleration) was because it allowed them to repeat the year (year 12) to improve their mark or would allow them to take more year 12 subjects (breadth).Rawlins research does not find that accelerated students have increased stress, that may “hinder their socio-emotional development.” In fact participants noted that despite perceptions of higher expectations they were called upon in class no more than other students. Of note was that participants in the research stated that they “enjoyed it when the teacher discussed some of the mathematical principles in more depth or used a variety of pedagogical techniques to enhance their learning.” Another point of interest from participants  was that they felt in general “that their skills and abilities were being recognised and they were generally treated as if they were one year older increasing their sense of self-worth and confidence. If you want to read more from Rawlins , the link above provides access to the full text.
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