A trip to the supermarket: Towards authentic learning design in mathematics for underprepared first-years
This chapter describes the design principles and outcomes of a learning intervention to improve the mathematics capabilities related to mental arithmetic and arithmetic/operational skills to solve simple mathematics amongst a group of underprepared first-year Information Technology students at a large university of technology in the Western Cape, South Africa. Although these students had passed mathematics in the South African matriculation examinations, a university placement test showed that their abilities in mathematics lay at Grade 6 school level. They had very little understanding of basic concepts of mathematics as well as a general fear of the subject.
Mathematics proficiency of South African school-leavers is generally poor and unequally distributed. The key drivers resulting in the poor mathematics results include a fear of mathematics, poor teaching and inadequate resources. Authentic learning offers a means by which the mathematics proficiency of school-leavers can be addressed. Contextualisation develops mathematics concepts and authentic problems can be aligned to students’ careers. The use of everyday objects allows practical exploration, contributing to realistic mathematics.
In a mixed method, sequential exploratory study, a series of learning events were designed using the Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate (ADDIE) model.
Following principles of authentic learning, students were given online learning tasks followed by a field trip to a supermarket, where they were exposed to everyday items of various sizes and proportions. With the aid of worksheets, they learned about proportions and fractions. While only 41,27% of the students passed the pre-test, 71,45% passed the post-test. A qualitative analysis of their interview responses showed an increase in their motivation and confidence to complete the subject.
The chapter concludes with recommendations for the design of authentic learning experiences in mathematics, as well as suggestions for further development and research.