“Maths is Challenge, Struggle and Mistakes Will Grow Our Brain”: The Impact on Student Attitude, Confidence and Achievement of the Introduction of Inquiry-Based Learning into the Mathematics Programme of a New Zealand Primary School
Underachievement in mathematics in Aotearoa/New Zealand continues to be an issue for some students. Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) has been described by research as one way of addressing these underachievement issues. Ongoing underachievement impacts on students’ confidence which may exacerbate underachievement in a downward spiral. Research has shown that both confidence and achievement can be positively influenced by IBL, therefore IBL was trialled here at All Saints School. This thesis describes a research project which sought to determine the impact of an IBL teaching intervention with the aim of improving outcomes for students underachieving in mathematics. It examines the impact on students’ attitude, confidence and achievement that resulted from the introduction of IBL into the mathematics teaching and learning programme of three classes, Years 3, 4 and 6, in a high socio-economic status (SES), high achieving, urban Catholic full primary school. The intervention drew on a professional learning community where the participant teachers explored literature on IBL and worked together to assist each other to add IBL to the teaching and learning programme for mathematics. The study design was a mixed methods case study. Qualitative data were gathered through student interviews and surveys. The intervention was undertaken over a full school year, so quantitative achievement data were gathered from the school’s usual assessment methods without the introduction of further external testing or assessment. Student surveys and interviews from three classes totalling 51 students informed the research questions on student attitude and confidence. Over-all Teacher Judgement (OTJ) and Progressive Achievement Tests (PAT) provided quantitative data which informed the research questions on the impact IBL had on student achievement and the achievement gap between the highest and lowest achievers. In this school setting students began the intervention with a very positive attitude to mathematics and only minor variations to this were observed. Students also began with a high level of confidence in their overall mathematical ability, but very low confidence in their problem-solving ability specifically. By the end of the intervention, their high level of confidence had extended to their problem-solving confidence also. PAT achievement data revealed the Year 3 class and the Year 4 underachieving students both made mean achievement gains of a statistically significant level. The Year 4 class only just reached national averages, but the Year 3 and 6 classes exceeding national average results for their year level. A deeper exploration of the data revealed that the low achieving students made major achievement gains for the intervention year. The low achieving Year 4 and 6 students made gains that exceeded both national averages and their high achieving classmates by large margins. Taken together these results further add to the body of evidence that argues for the inclusion of IBL in schools’ mathematics programmes.