The contexts which Namibian learners in grades 8 to 10 prefer to use in mathematics
Shifula, Loide Ndahafa
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One of the key ideas in the research on mathematics education is that the mathematical knowledge that learners acquire is strongly tied to the particular situation in which it is learnt. This study investigated the contexts that learners in grades eight, nine and ten prefer to deal with in the learning of mathematics based on their personal, social, societal, cultural and contextual concerns or affinities. The study is situated in the large-scale project called the Relevance of School Mathematics Education II (ROSMEII), which is concerned with the application and the use of mathematical knowledge and processes in real life situations. It is based on a survey of learners from ten (10) secondary schools in the Oshana and Khomas regions of Namibia. The ten schools that were sampled represent the spectrum of schools in Namibia in both urban and semi-urban areas. The Rasch model of data analysis is employed to provide some insight into the contextual situations learners would like to deal with in their mathematical learning. The data obtained for this study was analysed using the WINSTEPS Version 3.65.0 suite of computer programs. The current study arises from a concern about the absence of the voices of learners in the contextual situations in mathematics selected by adults such as mathematics teachers, inspectorates and curriculum and materials developers. The assumption is that the inclusion of learners’ insights into mathematics curricular might enhance mathematical learning. The study reveals that school children have an intrinsic desire to learn about mathematical issues embedded in real-life contexts. Several items which Namibian learners have shown interest in are issues they experience in life out of school which are not directly dealt with in school, such as managing personal and financial affairs, health matters, technology, construction, engineering and government financial matters. However, learners indicated to have a low preference in contexts like lotteries and gambling, national and international politics, cultural products, all kinds of pop music and dancing. This thesis contends that the inclusion of contexts in the mathematics curriculum which are of interest to learners will go a long way in facilitating good performance of learners in mathematics.