Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Effectiveness of Using Computer-Assisted Supplementary Instruction for Teaching Selected Algebra Topics at a Laboratory High School

Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Effectiveness of Using Computer-Assisted Supplementary Instruction for Teaching Selected Algebra Topics at a Laboratory High School

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Mathematics educators have recognized that algebra is the main tool for working with several mathematical systems (Brody & Rosenfield, 1996; Choike, 2000). The algebraic knowledge and skills are also necessary for solving problems in scientific and non-scientific disciplines. Educators and policy makers alike recognize that algebra is an important gatekeeper course, not only for college preparation but also for preparation for the world of work. This makes the understanding of central concepts of algebra of paramount importance to high school students intending a wide variety of careers. To prepare students for future success, many school districts and state legislatures now make algebra a graduation requirement for all high school students (Choike, 2000).

Unfortunately, surveys of American high school students have reported that many of them have difficulties with mathematical problems involving algebraic knowledge and skills considerations (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989; Hensel, & Stephens, 1997; Dossey, Mullis, Lindquist, & Chambers, 1998). As a result many students are graduating from high schools with weaknesses in algebra and are entering college with these deficits in place.

Several factors have been attributed to students' difficulties with algebra such as: mathematics anxiety (Hembree, 1990), personality traits (Brody & Stephens, 1996), lack of resources, poor mathematical background, students' negative attitudes towards mathematics, and lack of good teaching approaches. Other studies have established that the difficulties that the high school students experience are mainly the result of deficiencies in their abstract thinking and formal reasoning abilities (Rech, Juhler, & Johnson, 1995). Abstractness of knowledge is thought to have an influence on learning difficult mathematics concepts such as those in algebra. Specifically, in solving problems that involve algebra students have to deal with several expressions (Brody & Rosenfield, 1996).

Recent studies suggest that the problem is not entirely due to these factors. Rather the difficulties that the high students experience could also be due to lack of supplementary instruction. This problem could be worse for average students enrolled in mathematics courses. Such students would need supplementary instruction if they are to develop sound algebraic knowledge and skills. Research has shown that supplementary instruction has an effect on students' achievement and their attitude towards mathematics (Morrell, 1992). Therefore, there is need to provide supplementary instruction to average students as a way of helping them develop sound understanding of the unusually abstract algebra concepts. In addition, students should also be exposed to several ways of solving algebra problems through supplementary instruction delivered via different media. Recent studies strongly support the use of Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) as effective in teaching mathematics (Bennet, 1992; Mayes, 1992). In addition, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1989) has vigorously supported the appropriate use of computers and other technology as a means for students to explore mathematics content and to focus on problem solving. In this article CAI is described as the teaching and learning process where the computers are used to deliver the instruction. CAI may be designed to introduce new materials, allow practice of new skills, and provide review and remediation when necessary. If properly used CAI, has the potential to provide a great variety of algebra problems, and ways of solving those problems (Damarin, Dziak, Stull, & Whiteman, 1988).

While many variables influence the success of CAI, it is important to note that the type of the CAI used as well as the subject matter of investigation, (in this case algebra) will affect the outcome of the instruction. In looking specifically other studies in which CAI has been employed, some studies showed that CAI served to enhance students' achievement in mathematics and science (Morrell, 1992). …

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