The Role of Visualisation in Data Handling in Grade 9 within a Problem‐centred Context

Wessels, D. ; Makina, A. (2009-07)

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In the recent past, data handling has been neglected at secondary school level, perhaps partially due to the strong emphasis on developing arithmetic, algebra and geometry. For the first time, the South African curriculum includes substantial amounts of data handling at all grade levels. The introduction of more data handling in the secondary school curriculum in South Africa and the prevalence of many problems in the teaching of probability and statistics argues for a serious reconsideration of the way it is taught to the pupils. Currently this concern has been the focus of a call for reform in mathematics education by a body like the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) at all levels of schooling (NCTM, 1989; 2000). The importance of visualisation in mathematics, at all levels of mathematical problem solving is well documented in the literature (Bishop, 1989; Maher & Alston, 1989; Moses, 1982; Wheatley, 1991) but almost nothing was done to appreciate visualisation in the learning of data handling. The paper therefore provides a qualitative examination from a Masters dissertation (Makina, 2005) of the role of visualisation in the learning of data handling. This is done through examining the thought processes involved by Grade 9 learners during visualisation while solving data handling tasks. Several roles of visualisation were identified and most were found to improve the critical and creative thinking of pupils during their learning of data handling. The results show that learners are likely to improve their performance in data handling if the awareness of the need to use visualisation creatively as a tool for understanding are highlighted.

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