Date of Award

Spring 2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Department

Education and Human Development

Abstract

Children learn by exploring and discovering. Constructivism, while not a teaching practice, is considered a theory about learning and knowledge that finds its roots in part from Piaget’s developmental stages theory and Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development concept. This qualitative research project explores what happens when constructivist principles form the basis for mathematics instruction in a primary classroom. Additional questions that were considered included: How do first grade math journals guide students to deeper understandings of math concepts? What teaching strategies are useful in scaffolding students' meaning-making as they use math journals? In what ways might teaching practices and curriculum change and adapt in order to teach from a constructivist perspective? What does student engagement look like when instruction and curriculum is based on constructivist principles? In what ways are student attitudes affected by this change? The project used discussions and math centers to guide mathematical understanding engaging students in small focus groups and one-on-one as needed. The research project focused on three students. The three students varied in academic strengths. Although highlighting three case studies, researcher observation and reflection was noted in the teaching journal on other students in the class. Over the course of six weeks, students participated in whole group discussions on mathematics, small group center time activities, and independent work time. Observational field notes and reflection on the daily lessons were recorded in teaching journals and memos. Student journals and paper-center work from the focus group was also noted.

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