Opportunities for the development of critical thinking skills in the mathematics classroom
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The nurturing of critical thinking skills is one of the cornerstones of Outcomes Based Education (OBE). This study investigated to what extent teachers provide opportunities for the development of critical thinking skills in Grade 8 in Mathematics classrooms. A literature study was undertaken to highlight the importance and nature of the development of critical thinking skills in the Mathematics classroom, and to establish how critical thinking could be nurtured during the teaching, learning and assessment of Mathematics. Various teaching methods and assessment strategies, types of learning material, a variety of classroom activities and how to create a classroom conducive to the development of critical thinking skills were explored. The literature review provided the framework to design a questionnaire that was utilized to obtain the perceptions of Grade 8 Mathematics teachers and learners regarding the opportunities provided for the development of critical thinking skills in Mathematics classrooms. By means of quantitative, non-experimental descriptive research, the self constructed, closed-ended questionnaire was administered to a convenient sample of a purposively selected group of Mathematics teachers (n = 92) and learners (n = 204) in the Ekurhuleni District of Gauteng, South Africa. The triangulation of learner and teacher data revealed that teachers do have an understanding of the importance of critical thinking in the Mathematics classroom, but that their understanding is not always fully translated into practical opportunities for the development of critical thinking skills. It was revealed that teachers do make use of questioning and allow learners to communicate during problem-solving, which are important strategies for the development of critical thinking. However, it was evident that teachers appear to be inhibiting the development of critical thinking skills by relying heavily on the use of textbooks and transmission of knowledge during teaching, and seem not to acknowledge the merits of cooperative learning and real life experiences during the teaching and learning of Mathematics. The study is concluded with recommendations on how to nurture and improve critical thinking in the Mathematics classroom.
- Education