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Teaching and learning for mathematical literacy

Oda Heidi Bolstad of the Faculty of Engineering and Science at the University of Agder has submitted her thesis entitled «Teaching and learning for mathematical literacy» and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Wednesday 25 November 2020. (Photo: Tone Solhaug)

This may suggest that excessive textbook use contributes to a narrow understanding of mathematical literacy. To build a rich understanding of this competence one has to participate in developing, implementing and revising mathematical literacy tasks. This makes one better equipped to educate students for the future.

Oda Heidi Bolstad

PhD Candidate

The disputation will be held digitally, because of the Corona covid-19-situation. Spectators may follow the disputation digitally.

 

Oda Heidi Bolstad of the Faculty of Engineering and Science at the University of Agder has submitted her thesis entitled «Teaching and learning for mathematical literacy» and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Wednesday 25 November 2020.

She has followed the PhD-programme at the Faculty of  Engineering and Science with specilisation in Mathematical Sciences, scientific field Mathematics Education.

Summary of the thesis by Oda Heidi Bolstad:

Teaching and learning for mathematical literacy

In my dissertation, I study teaching and learning for mathematical literacy.

Mathematical literacy is a notion used to denote the competences required to meet the mathematical demands of life in modern society. The importance of education for mathematical literacy is emphasised by the OECD.

In in the Norwegian context, it is known as "numeracy as a basic skill". In the Norwegian curriculum, this competence should be developed across subjects.

Competence involving several elements

Mathematical literacy is a competence that involves several elements. It involves the ability to use mathematics in different contexts and situations in daily life, work-life and societal life.

  • First, this requires formal mathematical knowledge.
  • One also needs competence in the use of different tools, both physical and digital.
  • Also, dispositions are important. One needs the willingness and confidence to engage in mathematical tasks.
  • Finally, all of this must be embedded in a critical orientation. One needs to know how mathematics can be used in arguments and decisions. This also involves a critical evaluation of mathematical methods and tools, and to choose the one best suited in different situations.

In this way, mathematical literacy is a multi-faceted and complex competence.

Potential for improvement

In this study, I have interviewed school leaders, mathematics teachers, and grade 9 students in three schools, in addition to observing their mathematics lessons. The aim was to investigate their teaching and learning to develop mathematical literacy.

The results of the study show that teaching and learning for mathematical literacy can be improved.

Teachers recognise the importance of education for mathematical literacy. They also have thoughts on ways in which this can be done.

For instance, they suggest that practical activity is important instead of working with textbook tasks. However, working with textbook tasks dominates their teaching. This may suggest that they need to develop strategies for implementing mathematical literacy tasks in their teaching.

Teaching by textbooks

Even though the curriculum and other strategy documents contain descriptions of what mathematical literacy and numeracy as a basic skill are, such descriptions focus on what a person with this competence can do. They do not provide any guidance regarding how to develop it.

This may be one reason why textbooks often dominate in teaching.

Understanding the competence

Also, the use of realistic contexts in mathematics teaching is emphasised by the school leaders, the teachers, the students, and curriculum documents.

This emphasis may be overshadowing other important elements of mathematical literacy and, in this way, narrowing the meaning of mathematical literacy to only involve the use of mathematics in context.

This is a problem because much of the mathematics subject content is abstract and difficult to relate to a situation in the real world.

It is therefore important to point out that working with abstract mathematics also provides opportunities for developing mathematical literacy through. This can be done, for example, by critically evaluating the use of mathematical knowledge and tools.

Too narrow understanding

In my dissertation, I also refer to previous research stating that teachers' participation in a professional community working to develop mathematical literacy tasks, is important for their understanding of and teaching for mathematical literacy.

This may suggest that excessive textbook use contributes to a narrow understanding of mathematical literacy.

To build a rich understanding of this competence one has to participate in developing, implementing and revising mathematical literacy tasks. This makes one better equipped to educate students for the future.

 

What to do as an audience member:

The disputation is open to the public, but to follow the trial lecture and the public defence, which is transmitted via the Zoom conferencing app, you have to register as an audience member.

We ask audience members to join the virtual trial lecture at 09:50 at the earliest and the public defense at 11:50 at the earliest. After these times, you can leave and rejoin the meeting at any time. Further, we ask audience members to turn off their microphone and camera and keep them turned off throughout the event. You do this at the bottom left of the image when in Zoom. We recommend you use ‘Speaker view’. You select that at the top right corner of the video window when in Zoom.

Opponent ex auditorio:

The chair invites members of the public to pose questions ex auditorio in the introduction to the public defense, with deadlines. Questions can be submitted to the chair, Ingvald Erfjord on e-mail ingvald.erfjord@uia.no

Disputation facts:

The trial lecture and the public defence will take place online, via the Zoom conferencing app (link below)

Head of Department Ingvald Erfjord, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Faculty of  Engineering and Science, University of Agder, will chair the disputation.

Trial lecture at 10:00 hours
Public defense at 12:00 hours

 

Given topic for trial lecture“How can Norwegian teachers be prepared for, and supported in teaching for mathematical literacy?” 

Thesis Title«Teaching and learning for mathematical literacy»

Search for the thesis in AURA - Agder University Research Archive, a digital archive of scientific papers, theses and dissertations from the academic staff and students at the University of Agder.

 

The thesis is available here:

 

The CandidateOda Heidi Bolstad: (1987, Skjolden) One year study in folk music, Telemark University College (2007), Teacher education at Sogn og Fjordane University College (2010), Masters degree in Mathematics Education, Sør-Trøndelag University College (2012). Lector at Luster junior high school (2012-2016). Research fellow at Sogn og Fjordane University College/Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL) (2016-2019). Present position: Assistant Professor at Volda University College (2019-d.d.) 

Opponents:

First opponent: Professor Anna Sfard, University of Haifa, Israel

Second opponent: Professor Merrilyn Goos, University of Limerick, Ireland

Associate Professor Farzad Radmehr, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL),  is appointed as the administrator for the assessment commitee.

Supervisors were Professor Simon Goodchild, UiA (main supervisor) and Associate Professor  Frode Olav Haara, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL), (co-supervisor)