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Om det inte är dyskalkyli - vad är det då? : En multimetodstudie av eleven i matematikproblem ur ett longitudinellt perspektiv

by Sjöberg, Gunnar

Abstract (Summary)
One of the big problems of the Swedish nine-year compulsory school is the large number of pupils who fail to achieve a satisfactory standard in mathematics. One explanation that has been increasingly considered over the last ten years is that the pupils have dyscalculia. Some research suggests that 6 per cent of compulsory school pupils suffer from this dysfunction, which would in that case make it one of the Swedish school’s greatest teaching problems.The purpose of this thesis is to examine this problem area from two aspects. First of all by examining the concept of dyscalculia by means of a review of the literature from 1992 onwards. The second perspective has as its starting point a case study where the purpose was to give a detailed picture of the pupil with mathematics problems. The latter part of the study was carried out over a six-year period when 200 pupils, 13 of them with particular mathematics problems, were studied in detail.A point of departure for the study was provided by a large database where as much information as possible was collected about pupils from Year 5 of the nine-year compulsory school to Year 2 of the three-year upper secondary school. The pupils were asked to fill in regular questionnaires and classroom observations were made of roughly 100 mathematics lessons, 40 of which were recorded on video. Finally there were in-depth interviews of the 13 pupils on two occasions, the final one being during Year 2 of the upper secondary school.The review of the research showed a series of dubious and indistinct circumstances surrounding the dyscalculia concept, and also ambiguity with regard to the diagnosis of dyscalculia. The conclusion of the review was that the concept of dyscalculia ought at present to be used with great caution, or perhaps not at all. Admittedly the review does not provide grounds for totally dismissing the dyscalculia concept, but as long as it remains impossible to determine the concept unambiguously, and I have not been able to do this in the course of this study, there are no good scientific grounds for using the term dyscalculia in practice.The empirical study shows the complexity of the problem area. Both the causes suggested by the pupils as the origin of the problem and the measures that helped them to obtain their mathematics grades form a complex pattern. The low work input of the pupils during mathematics lessons, an unsettled working environment, large classes, problems of stress and anxiety prior to tests, and obstructive gender patterns are among the causes suggested by the pupils as explanations of the occurrence of the mathematics problems. Good teachers, in other words teachers who can explain, set limits and give encouragement, were a significant factor in reversing the downward trend. Positive experiences of school changes, where the pupil felt that he or she could start again from the beginning, were also mentioned as significant by several pupils. Collaboration with fellow-pupils and the fact that the pupils themselves decided to get to grips with the problems were other important reasons for the change. The prospects of students with specific problems in mathematics nevertheless being able to leave compulsory school with satisfactory grades appear, however, from the results of this study, to be bright. All the pupils left the compulsory school with satisfactory mathematics grades and also completed mathematics studies at upper secondary school, despite major problems in the subject at intermediate school (age 10-13) stage.The study indicates the need for research closer to the actual practical situation and to the importance of emphasizing good examples in practice. As the students themselves emphasize discrete communication between them as significant in the subject of mathematics, this is also an important area for future research.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Umeå universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:SOCIAL SCIENCES; Social sciences; Pedgogical work; Mathematics learning; learning problems in mathematics; maths anxiety; dyscalculia; special education; sociocultural theory; pupils’ work input; school research; communication; gender.

ISBN:91-7264-047-2

Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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