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Investigating Variability in Classroom Performance amongst Children Exhibiting Difficulties with Early Arithmetic

Houssart, Jenny (2007) Investigating Variability in Classroom Performance amongst Children Exhibiting Difficulties with Early Arithmetic. Educational and Child Psychology, 24 (2). pp. 83-97. ISSN 0267-1611

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Abstract

Researchers in both psychology and mathematics education acknowledge that children’s mathematical performance can vary inexplicably from day to day, though there has been little detailed investigation of the form of variability discussed in this paper. The paper builds on research suggesting this might be a particular issue for children considered to have learning difficulties in mathematics. The children concerned were seven- to nineyear- olds taught together for mathematics in a small group with high levels of adult help in assessment, planning and teaching. Observational research was conducted, with the researcher making weekly visits over the course of a year. Findings synthesise a range of evidence for each child gathered both during planned assessment tasks and as part of routine classroom activity. The data are used to chart the performance of individuals over this period. Findings suggest that arithmetical capacities were not fixed and easily assessed, but varied from day to day. This variability is considered in some detail with the aim of offering explanations for perceived differences. Elements such as task presentation and subtle mathematical differences between tasks provide partial explanations. Many differences remain unexplained, and it is argued that variability is in fact a feature of learning. Finally, implications for practice in assessing children and planning for their mathematical development, are considered.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is based on observational data collected over the course of a year. The children concerned are seven to nine-year-olds considered to have learning difficulties in mathematics. The data are used to chart the performance of individuals over the year, working on similar or identical tasks on different occasions. Findings suggest variability in performance which can sometimes, but not always, be explained by factors such as task presentation or subtle mathematical differences between tasks. It is argued that variability is a feature of learning. The work is similar in some ways to micro genetic studies carried out by psychologists, but is original in that it seeks to see if similr patterns emerge from observation of normal classroom activities. The article was published in a special edition of a refereed journal. Abstracts were screened by the two joint editors and completed articles were sent to three referees.
Controlled Keywords: Primary school , Numeracy , Special educational needs
Divisions: IOE Departments > Departments > Learning, Curriculum and Communication
IOE Departments > Departments > Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
Depositing User: IOE Repository Editor (2)
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2010 11:55
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2013 11:59
URI: http://eprints.ioe.ac.uk/id/eprint/1402

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