An analysis of challenges in the teaching of problem solving in Grade 10 mathematics

26 February 2014

The paper focuses on challenges in the teaching of problem-solving in Grade 10 Mathematics, which may emanate from ignoring the background environment of the child (Graven & Schafer, 2013:4). It is important to affirm what learners know because their background knowledge is influenced by environmental surroundings (Leung, 2008:145), including social and cultural practices. The Department of Basic Education Report (2009) shows that the same topics in which Grade 10 Mathematics learners performed poorly corresponded with those in which they did poorly at the end of their Grade 12 examinations. The study is framed by community cultural wealth theory (Yosso, 2005), which posits knowledge as excluding communities. Rocha-Schmid (2010:344) contends that it is not correct to view excluded communities as objects for rehabilitation, but rather they should be conceived by a Freirean emancipatory project that perceives subaltern communities as authentic beings capable of engaging mathematical concepts in creative endeavours and critical thinking. Hence, the study asserts that it is crucial that parents, traditional leaders and community leaders, play a crucial role in the teaching and learning of Grade 10 Mathematics, so as to alleviate the identified challenges. The study utilised participatory action research (PAR) methods, which recognise community members as experts, and the empowerment of communities to find their own solutions to local issues (Moana, 2010:1). The researcher puts together a team of community members, the school population and education district officials as participants in the study. Each challenge was outlined and analysed using critical discourse analysis (CDA), enabling the participants to use the spoken/written word as evidence of the interpretation made at both the levels of discursive practice and social structures, to extract a deeper meaning and to make repertoires of each participant (Francis, 2012:18; Mahlomaholo, 2012a:51, 2012b:104).