THE IMPACT OF COMPUTER APPLICATIONS ON COMPUTATION, PROBLEM SOLVING AND CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING OF MATHEMATICS SKILLS
At the beginning of the twenty first century technology emerged as an integral part of our daily lives as well as part of the education landscape. It has changed how things were done previously (Guerrero, 2010). As a result schools are being challenged to use technology in order to change learners’ perception that Mathematics is only for a certain group of people. The approach used by teachers of being knowledge transmitters and textbook-bound led to the learners building a negative attitude towards Mathematics.
Demir (2011) highlights that it is important to integrate technology in the teaching of Mathematics and science. Some of the Mathematics teachers are discouraged by poor performance of their learners and they leave the profession. The teachers’ lack of content knowledge is another factor that contributes to poor learner performance in Mathematics, as has emerged at the symposium on Mathematics and Physical Science Grade 12 results 2010, held at UNISA on 22 February 2011(Nel, 2015). The teachers tend to learn the content from the textbook and teach learners content without any comprehension of the work. The learners agree that it is exciting and enjoyable to use computers in Mathematics classroom, and their performance improves (De Souza, 2005). The country has a shortage of skilled Mathematics teacher. It is this challenge of poor performance of leaners in Mathematics that prompted this study.
This study investigates the effect of using computers in the teaching and learning of Mathematics with specific focus on the topic of linear functions. During the researcher‘s experience of teaching Mathematics she observed that the learners struggle with the simple computation and manipulation of formulae. When the learners learn linear function in algebra, it is a challenge for them to determine the value of the dependent variable, appropriate scale for drawing graphs and the drawing of the graph. They spend more time on trying to determine the value of the
x-intercept, gradient and y-intercept, thereafter they take some time drawing the graph using the table method of substitution. According to Johnston-Wilder and Pimm (2005), the use of computers could assist learners in computation and thus reduce the time spent on one equation not only on functions but on geometry, trigonometry and data handling. The learners also learn from computer-feedback, observe pattern, see connection, work with images, explore data and explain to their teachers and their peers.
The results available in the “Trends in International Mathematics Science Study” (TIMSS) indicate that learners from homes that have extensive educational resources have higher achievement scores than those learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. In Reddy’s opinion (2006), learners in South Africa enjoy and value Mathematics, but their performance is still very poor. Township schools have a shortage of resources for effective teaching and learning, for example, computers for teaching Mathematics, computer software for Mathematics instruction, calculators and library material for Mathematics. Countries like Singapore have high availability of quality resources, and their learners’ performance in Mathematics is very high, as indicated in the TIMSS 2003 (Reddy, 2006).
According to the TIMSS, many studies have been conducted to identify the problems pertaining to the poor performance of learners in Mathematics (Ndlovu & Mji 2012; Reddy, van der Berg, Janse van Rensburg & Taylor, 2012) with the emphasis on the teaching and learning of Mathematics in South Africa. The findings indicate that there is a need to rescue the situation in South Africa, because the results show that in future fewer learners will graduate from the school system with results in Mathematics that are good enough to permit them to tertiary studies in the Science and Engineering fields, among others, as these fields of science and engineering are least to be chosen. Ogbonnaya (2010) points out that the use of computers improves learners’ attitude towards Mathematics, and consequently improves their performance in that subject.
Having introduced the study and discussed the background, the next section presents the problem statement.