Students' perspective of a mathematics extension programme designed with special interest in history : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Studies (Mathematics) at Massey University
The current Mathematics in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1992) includes the development of mathematical talent as a major aim of mathematics education. In catering for the individual needs of all students, the document emphasizes that students with exceptional ability in mathematics must be extended and are not expected to repeat the work they have already mastered. Talented students should be exposed to broader, richer, and more challenging mathematical experiences, should be allowed to investigate whole new topics, and work at a higher conceptual level. Despite a growing awareness among secondary school teachers of the needs of mathematically gifted and talented students in the New Zealand secondary school classrooms, there are few exemplars of how mathematics programmes can be adapted for class groups of talented students. This study involves an investigation based on student perceptions of a mathematics programme that build on specific interest of a whole class group of students. The aim of this qualitative exploratory case study, undertaken in an urban secondary school for girls, was to seek students' views on a Year 10 mathematics extension programme. As part of their Year 10 general extension programme, they participated in mathematics extension and studied history as their chosen option. While all students in this class were academically talented and high achievers in their core subject areas, not all of them were equally talented, or equally interested in mathematics. The mathematics extension programme, designed by their mathematics teacher (the researcher), specifically integrated their interest in history. Data was generated from student self-evaluation questionnaires at the beginning of the course, and student questionnaires and focus-group interviews at the end of the course. Students' written and verbal responses were analyzed and then conclusions drawn. The findings suggested that by approaching mathematics from a historical point of view and thereby building on their common interest, the programme of study facilitated the development of mathematical talent and supported students in developing interest and a positive disposition towards mathematics.