Intellectual challenge in mathematics teaching in lower secondary schools in Iceland

Berglind Gísladóttir & Jóhann Örn Sigurjónsson have published the first findings from schools in Mathematics in Iceland (Available in Icelandic).

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The aim of this study was to assess the level of intellectual challenge offered to students in lower secondary mathematics classrooms in Iceland. Ten teachers participated in the study. A total of 34 mathematics lessons in 8th grade were video recorded and 144 mathematical tasks identified from both videos and lesson plans. Two frameworks were used to analyse the data. The Protocol for Language Arts Teaching Observations (PLATO) was used to analyse the level of intellectual challenge in the lessons. The Task Analysis Guide was used to analyse whether the solution of the tasks required analytical thinking. The task analysis revealed that majority of tasks involved applying specific procedures to reach a solution without connections to underlying mathematical concepts. Furthermore, the lesson analysis showed that teachers had difficulties maintaining the challenge of the tasks as initially presented. While students worked individually according to a lesson plan, teachers commonly reduced the challenge of activities in their assistance to students by asking closed questions or computing for students, and often telling the solution to students. On the other hand, the results also showed examples of activities where teachers encouraged student collaboration and discourse in solving tasks where the solution required critical and creative thinking. In those cases where intellectual challenge was at a high level, students worked collaboratively on the same tasks.

Full info

Berglind Gísladóttir & Jóhann Örn Sigurjónsson (2021). Intellectual challenge in mathematics teaching in lower secondary schools, Icelandic Journal of Education, 29 (2). (Available in Icelandic)


Published Apr. 21, 2021 11:55 AM - Last modified Apr. 21, 2021 1:42 PM