The Art of Teaching Primary School Science and Math

Statement of the Problem

Math and science are among the few subjects that students and even teachers consider difficult in terms of teaching and understanding especially at the primary school level. The two subjects have a lot that teachers have to cover within the limited time that is set by the ministry of education. For instance, science teachers have to handle teaching in class together with laboratory experiments. The situation pushes one to think about the need of having separate science teachers, with some handling theoretical stuff while others handle the practical part of science.

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The research problem that will be addressed by this study will be measures that should be taken to facilitate successful teaching, learning, and performance in math and science subjects among primary school students in Saudi Arabia. The researcher perceives that the research findings will be integral in solving the problem in question.

Research Questions

In order to collect information from the respondents, the research has formulated the following questions:

  • How does professional preparation of math teachers influence students’ performance in the subject?
  • How does the use of Arabic numbers affect students’ performance in math?
  • To what extent does science teachers’ load affect their performance in science and/or math?

Literature Review

There is a wide range of literature materials that study the importance, history, teaching styles, and development of science and math subjects. This chapter presents the current literature relevant to this study. Supekar, Swigart, Tenison, Jolles, Rosenberg-Lee, Fuchs, and Menon (2013, p.8230) define math as an expression of the human mind that reflects the active will, the contemplative reason, and the desire for aesthetic perfection. In addition, Kiboss (2012, p.31) claims that the basic element of science as an area of study is logic. According to Henno and Reiska (2013, p.465), math and science subjects expose primary school pupils to instructions, analysis, construction, generality, and individuality. Kiboss (2012, p.33) further affirms that the learner is trained to think logically and creatively.

Krawec, Huang, Montague, Kressler, and de Alba (2013, p.80) claim that math is a tool that enables the learner to think critically. Kaya and Kablan (2013, p.525) show how the learners’ minds are shaped and trained to be flexible and independent. Koegel, Singh, and Koegel (2010, p.1057) assert that a person with the ability to think critically is competent to reflect, evaluate, and accept an opinion on the basis of the available evidences.

Ngware, Ciera, Abuya, Oketch, Mutisya (2012, p.55) argue that math and science have a communicative value. However, Krawec et al. (2013, p.80) depict the uniqueness of the two subjects based on the way symbols are used for numbers and operations and yet communication is complete and precise. Henno and Reiska (2013, p.465) observe that the attitude and huge workload of math and science teachers in Saudi Arabia may cause learning problems. It will be wise to research further on whether these difficulties vary with gender, experience, academic qualifications, performance, and/or supervision.

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As a result, these teachers have to spend a limited time planning and presenting a huge volume of work that could otherwise be done by other separate teachers. As a result, Şahin (2013, p.243) reveals the stress that Saudi Arabian science and math teachers encounter in their day-to-day class work. They do not have enough time to grasp the finer details that students need to be taught. Şahin (2013, p.244) continues to note that such teachers will have a low knowledge in dealing with primary school children.

Suryadarma, Suryahadi, Sumarto, and Rogers (2006, p.401) observe that some primary school teachers, especially those who are young in the profession may not be able to determine the level of content that is appropriate for their students. Thrupp (2013, p.99) argues that the scope and sequence of content within the topics may result in poor performance. The right instructional materials are the necessary ingredients that make teaching of math and science in Saudi Arabia a pleasant and satisfying experience. It is clear that teaching aids are necessary for effective teaching.

Wahab, Hamid, Hamzah and Sani (2013, p.44) argue that math has been referred to as a dry subject based on the materials that teachers use in class, for instance, chalk, red pen, textbooks, and blackboard ruler. Wang, Wildman, and Calhoum (1996, p.365) observe that lack of the right resources and teaching aids makes math teachers teach the subject in abstraction. The teacher simply lectures the concepts, thus failing to relate them with the daily life of the learners. Modern technology makes use of gadgets like iPads and Smartphones, which use English numbers. From this perspective, Supekar et al. (2013, p.8230) further confirms that one of the principal problems in math is its language.

Moreover, Thrupp (2013, p.99) argues that the mathematical meaning to be conveyed is often complex. The words used are often endowed with other meanings, which are more familiar to the learner in his or her daily language. According to Smith, Marchand-Martella, and Martella (2011, p.247), the language of instruction must relate with the current experience of the learner.

Aims of the study

The purpose of this study will be to identify the measures that should be taken to facilitate successful teaching, learning, and performance in math and science subjects among primary school students in Saudi Arabia. The study will factor in the presence and effectiveness of a program that has been invented by Asian Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Association and the World Abacus Almanac. It helps students to improve their ability in math especially with the multiplication table.

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Objectives of the Study

  • To find out how professional preparation of math teachers affects their performance and that of their students in Math.
  • To find out the impact of the use of Arabic numbers and the aforementioned program on math performance in Saudi Arabia.
  • To establish the impact of post-graduate training of primary school teachers on mathematic performance.

Research Methodology

This study will be conducted in primary schools in Saudi Arabia.

The choice of location will be based on how conveniently accessible the schools are to the researcher. Another basis for the choice of location is that, no similar study has been carried out in the country. The study will adopt a descriptive survey design. According to Mugenda and Mugenda (1999, p.23), the design studies individuals or objects as whole units and not in parts. The first target population will be class seven and eight students. The second target population will be math and science teachers who teach the mentioned classes. The third category of the target population will be the administrators and more so, the principals.

The study sample will be restricted to 15 schools in Saudi Arabia. Stratified random sampling will be used to select ten class-seven students and ten class eight students making a total of 20 students per school. Ngware et al. (2012, p.55) argue that an equal number of boys and girls in mixed schools should be selected to cater for gender parity. As such, the total number of students will be 300.

Research Instruments

The main instruments to be used in this study will be a questionnaire. In this case, three sets of questionnaires will be prepared for the target groups: students, teachers, and administrators. The questionnaires will have both open-ended and closed-ended questions. The researcher will pre-test the questionnaires with two schools in the districts, which will not be included in the sampled 15 schools. The purpose of the pilot study will be to enable the researcher improve on the reliability and validity of the instruments, as well as to familiarise with its administration. After data collection, the researcher will code all the data and enter it in the computer for analysis using the statistical package for the social sciences (SPSS).

The data will be analysed using both descriptive and statistical analyses procedures. The descriptive analysis procedures to be employed include frequencies, percentages, and means. The results will be reported in summary form using frequency tables and bar graphs.

Significance of the Study

The study draws its importance from the fact that performance in math and science at the country and individual school levels has remained a major challenge despite the much prominence attached to the subjects in Saudi Arabia. This indicates that the input is not equivalent to the output as it would have been expected.

Arslan (2012, p.1915) observes that math and science are integral in terms of the achievement of the national development goals. As such, there is an urgent need to arrest the situation in a bid to produce better students in Saudi Arabia. Jensen (2013, p.180) reveals how studies should be an eye opener to students who are working out their way forward towards a better performance in math and science. The study will also form a basis on which other researchers can develop further studies.

Reference List

Arslan, A. (2012). Predictive Power of the Sources of Primary School Students’ Self-Efficacy Beliefs on Their Self-Efficacy Beliefs for Learning and Performance. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 12(3), 1915-1920.

Henno, I., & Reiska, P. (2013). Impact Of The Sociocultural Context On Student Science Performance And Attitudes: The Case Of Estonia. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 12(4), 465-481.

Jensen, M (2013). Working longer makes students stronger? The effects of ninth grade classroom hours on ninth grade student performance. Educational Research, 55(2), 180-194.

Kaya, S., & Kablan, Z. (2013). Assessing The Relationship Between Learning Strategies And Science Achievement At The Primary School Level. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 12(4), 525-534.

Kiboss, K. (2012). Effects of Special E-Learning Program on Hearing-Impaired Learners’ Achievement and Perceptions of Basic Geometry in Lower Primary Math. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 46(1), 31-59.

Koegel, K., Singh, K., & Koegel, L. (2010). Improving Motivation for Academics in Children with Autism. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 40(9), 1057-1066.

Krawec, J., Huang, J., Montague, M., Kressler, B., & de Alba, M. (2013). The Effects of Cognitive Strategy Instruction on Knowledge of Math Problem-Solving Processes of Middle School Students With Learning Disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 36(2), 80-92.

Mugenda, M., & Mugenda, G. (1999). Research methods: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches. Nairobi, Kenya: Acts Press.

Ngware, W., Ciera, J., Abuya, A., Oketch, M., & Mutisya, M. (2012). What explains gender gaps in maths achievement in primary schools in Kenya? London Review of Education, 10(1), 55-73.

Şahin, İ. (2013). The Principals of Primary Schools Ideas on Their School Development Strategies and Practices. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 13(1), 242-250.

Smith, R., Marchand-Martella, E., & Martella, C. (2011). Assessing the Effects of the Rocket Math Program with a Primary Elementary School Student At Risk for School Failure: A Case Study. Education & Treatment of Children, 34(2), 247-258.

Supekar, K., Swigart, G., Tenison, C., Jolles, D., Rosenberg-Lee, M., Fuchs, L., & Menon, V. (2013). Neural predictors of individual differences in response to math tutoring in primary-grade school children. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(20), 8230-8235.

Suryadarma, D., Suryahadi, A., Sumarto, S., 7 Rogers, H. (2006). Improving Student Performance in Public Primary Schools in Developing Countries: Evidence from Indonesia. Education Economics, 14(4), 401-429.

Thrupp, M. (2013). National Standards for student achievement: Is New Zealand’s idiosyncratic approach any better? Australian Journal of Language & Literacy, 36(2), 99-110.

Wahab, A., Hamid, A., Hamzah, M., & Sani, A. (2013). Strategic Management in National and Chinese Primary School in Malaysia. Asian Social Science, 9(12), 44-49.

Wang, J., Wildman, L., & Calhoum, G. (1996). The relationship between parental influences and student achievement in seventh grade math. School Science and Math, 96(8), 365-400.

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