Intermediate students at-risk in mathematics : case studies of teachers and students
Zuke, Carly Rae
Master of Education
Study and teaching (Intermediate)
Study and teaching
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Although there have been changes made to Ontario's mathematics curriculum within the last decade to ensure student success, a significant number of students in Ontario schools have been achieving at or below a level 1 and labeled 'at-risk' by the Ministry of Education's At-Risk Working Group (Expert Panel on Student Success in Ontario, 2004). This study explores intermediate students in a Northern Ontario city who are at-risk in mathematics. The purpose of the study is to investigate the various factors that inhibit student success in mathematics and to determine what students need in order to succeed. Since teachers are in a position to enhance and facilitate student success, the roles of teachers as well as student attitudes and dispositions in mathematics classrooms need clarification.The central questions guiding this study are: What types of strategies and practices do mathematics teachers use in their classrooms for all students and for those who they believe to be at-risk in mathematics? What are the observable behaviors of the students identified as at-risk as they interact in the classroom environment? What personal and mathematics-related learning characteristics can be observed in the at-risk students? The data collection process involved a collective case study of six students and three teachers, who were studied to provide an in-depth understanding of how mathematics teachers and their students interacted in mathematics classrooms. The data was mainly collected through participant observation, student work records and discussions with students and teachers.The findings indicate that the students in this study appear to be inhibited by many personal and behavioral issues. Some have been impacted by multiple school transfers and some have poor attendance. Most expressed a lack of confidence in their ability to succeed in mathematics, and some have a negative attitude toward the subject matter. Each student case is unique as their individuality and experiences play a role in their beliefs, attitude toward the subject matter, and desire to achieve. This study also consistently showed that the teachers tended to fall back on traditional practices when working with students at-risk in mathematics, and seemed particularly reluctant to adopt reform-based teaching methodologies with these students.