Teaching and learning of number concept in Chinese primary classroom

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The research investigated the practices of the teaching and learning of number concept and primary mathematics broadly, within a classroom context in China's Inner Mongolia province. Informed by Vygotsky's cultural historical theoretical framework, and using an ethnographic approach - with triangulated data collection methods, the research examined a teacher's approaches to teaching primary mathematical concepts. The research explored the teacher's rationale and understanding underpinning her classroom practices in order to uncover sociocultural contingencies and influences on the part of both the teacher's and learners' framing of the teaching and learning of mathematics in a Chinese Grade 1 classroom. The findings suggest that the teaching of mathematics, specifically number concept, has been and is undergoing changes, as policy regulations within the Chinese schooling system also undergo transformation. The findings further suggest that the introduction of learner-centred teaching into the Chinese curriculum policy framework has not significantly, if at all, supplanted teacher-controlled approaches in the classroom under investigation. While the emphasis placed by the teacher on precision and efficacy appears to have enabled learners to acquire the necessary skills and procedures to carry out the number operations, the concurrent lack of emphasis on individual, or authentic learner-centred approaches that engage learners in problem-based exploration of knowledge, appears to have inhibited the development amongst learners of independent and critical problem-solving skills.