The effect of a dynamic technological learning environment on the geometry conceptualisation of pre-service mathematics teachers
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Traditionally, geometry at school starts on a formal level, largely ignoring prerequisite skills needed for formal spatial reasoning. Ignoring that geometry conceptualisation has a sequential and hierarchical nature, causes ineffective teaching and learning with a long lasting inhibiting influence on spatial development and learning. One of the current reform movements in mathematics education is the appropriate use of dynamic computer technology in the teaching and learning of mathematics. Concerning mathematics education, the lecturers may involve the introduction of both dynamic computer technology and mathematics in meaningful contexts that will enable interplay between the two. Pre-service mathematics teachers (PMTs) can be encouraged to become actively involved in their learning and, therefore, less frustrated in their study orientation in mathematics. Therefore, such learning environments may be essential to enhance the conceptual understanding of PMTs. To be able to reach their eventual learners, PMTs' own conceptual understanding of geometry should be well developed. When PMTs have conceptual understanding of a mathematical procedure, they will perceive this procedure as a mathematical model of a problem situation, rather than just an algorithm. This study aimed at investigating the effect of a technologically enhanced learning environment on PMTs' understanding of geometry concepts and their study orientation in mathematics, as prerequisite for deep conceptualisation. A combined quantitative and qualitative research approach was used. The quantitative investigation employed a pre-experimental one-group pre-test post-test design. A Mayberry-type test was used to collect data with regard to PMTs' conceptualisation of geometry concepts, while the Study Orientation in Mathematics (SOM) questionnaire was used to collect data with regard their study orientation in mathematics. The qualitative investigation employed phenomenological interviews to collect supplementary information about the participating PMTs' experiences and assessment of the influence of the use of the dynamic software Geometer's Sketchpad (GSP) on their learning and conceptualisation of geometry concepts. During post-testing the participating group of PMTs achieved practically significantly higher scores in the Mayberry-type test, as well as in all fields of the SOM questionnaire. Results seem to indicate that PMTs gained significantly in the expected high levels of conceptualisation, as well as high degrees of acquisition of those levels during the intervention programme. The main conclusion of the study is that a technologically enhanced learning environment (such as GSP) can be successfully utilised to significantly enhance PMTs' conceptualisation and study orientation, as prerequisite for deep conceptualisation, in geometry.
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