The demands of today’s fast-paced global environment have necessitated individuals from all walks of life to acquaint themselves with basic mathematical skills. Calculations and mental estimations have become a core component of our lives.
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As such, many governments and stakeholders around the world are increasingly stressing the need for educational systems to develop comprehensive strategies that will enhance the intake of mathematics as a subject in educational institutions.
To underscore the importance of mathematics, education officials and stakeholders are working in cahoots with mathematics teachers to develop strategies aimed at enhancing student proficiency in the subject (Clarke 18). It is widely believed that “the teacher is the heart of the school” (Baker & LeTendre 104).
As such, any attempts to improve the performance of mathematics in educational institutions must be reviewed in the context of roles played by teachers. It is, therefore, the purpose of this paper to review the relationship between students’ mathematics performance and the support provided by teachers.
Many studies conducted over time reveal that students are more likely to thrive in any subject if they are actively supported by both teachers and parents (Dwyer 27).
However, global mathematics performance patterns reinforce the conviction that the subject continues to present a lot of challenges to students regardless of the many inputs intended to uplift its standards.
Not only must students deal with a wide array of mathematics skills such as the computation of decimals, percentages, fractions, and algebra to accomplish basic and compounded tasks, they must as well understand the fundamental numerical concepts in order to be successful in their day-to-day educational and private activities, in addition to their workplace environment later on in life (Grouws 129).
Research has also invariably revealed that many learners develop a poor attitude towards the subject, and are not convinced about their mathematical inclination to solve problems. What then must teachers do to ensure that such attitudes are reversed at an early age to boost students’ performance in the subject?
What is the ideal interrelationship between teachers and parents that can be effective in enhancing students’ mathematics performance? Below, these and many other lingering questions are answered through a review of related literature.
The importance of Teacher-Student Interaction
According to Uekewa and Bidwell, classical theoretical frameworks of interpersonal relationships lead education managers to expect noteworthy effects of instructor-student relationships on the students’ motivations and conduct (8).
In the book Interpersonal Relationships, Diana Dwyer (2000) reveals that classical theories such as the learning theory can be used to show how teacher-student relationships affect performance (45). She argues that both classical conditioning and operant conditioning described in the learning theory assist individuals to forge friendship and romantic associations.
The former involves learning by association while the latter entails learning by consequences. According to Dwyer, “We like people with whom we associate enjoyment and satisfaction, even if they are not directly responsible for these positive experiences” (46). In the same vein, we tend to like individuals who reward us and detest those who punish us.
The above theoretical dispensation is fundamentally essential in explaining the relationship between students’ mathematics performance and the support provided by teachers. Owing to the fact that mathematics is perceived as a problematic discipline by many students, the strength of teacher-student association in the classroom will be absolutely vital in determining performance.
The teacher must strive to introduce some enjoyable shared activities in his or her mathematics teaching strategies that would ultimately result in positive emotional responses among the students (Dwyer 46).
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Using the theoretical framework, the teacher may also offer support by introducing to the classroom a system that aims to reward the students who perform better in mathematics while stressing the fundamental importance of teacher-student interaction in the learning process.
Below, some variables that facilitate teacher-student interaction are discussed in relation to students’ mathematics performance.
Teacher Student Efficacy and performance
Teacher efficacy has been conceptualized as the teachers’ general competence to positively influence the performance of students (Chang & Wu 2). To provide the necessary support, the mathematics teacher must have an internalized belief in his or her own ability to have a positive influence on student learning and performance.
A research done by the two researchers revealed that fresh teachers from the pre-service training programs lacked the practical teaching experiences required to apply learned theories to instructional problems encountered in the classroom (2).
Apart from inadequate practical teaching experiences, teacher efficacy in improving students’ performance in mathematics is influenced by factors such as peer interaction, instructional approach, teaching resources, teacher-student interaction, and administrative support (Jamieson-Proctor & Byrne 5-6).
Teacher efficacy is critical in determining the performance of students in mathematics. It can be tied to the classical theoretical frameworks discussed elsewhere in this paper to explain students’ mathematics performance in many Australian schools.
For instance, mathematics teachers who lack the practical skills to propose questions and direct classroom activities, instead preferring to use lecturing techniques, ultimately decreases the students learning curiosities and motivations as the students are unable to learn through association (Chang & Wu 2; Dwyer 45).
This argument vehemently reveals that teacher efficacy and effectiveness is directly related to students’ mathematics performance.
In a study aimed at evaluating the factors that contributed to mathematics accomplishment in young Australian students, Greenwood (1997) found out that self-efficacy and home background were major influencers of mathematics performance among the students’ population.
Many theorists have postulated that an individual’s self-efficacy regarding the capacity to successfully execute a given task is a dependable indicator of whether the individual will attempt to complete the task, and how much the individual is willing to persevere in pursuing the assignment (Greenwood para. 16).
Consequently, any support extended by the mathematics teachers must be channelled to the development of self-efficacy among the students due to the reason that higher self-efficacy is often associated with improved performance.
Teaching Strategies and Performance
Recent studies on everyday teaching of mathematics lead to the same conclusion: “the organization of the collective life activities in which the mathematics tasks are embedded is of crucial importance for learning and successful performance” Seeger, Voigt, & Waschescio 77).
Such life activities include teaching strategies, assistance and teaching preparation. Accordingly, many researchers attest the fact that teaching of mathematics in real-life situations should be basic to any pedagogy.
Studies also reveal that any strategy employed to teach mathematics in schools must be comprehensive since the discipline is known to arouse the curiosity and anxiety of students, challenging them to solve complex problems and inviting them to investigate and develop new mathematics conceptual frameworks that may be used for pragmatic ends (Clarke 28).
A study conducted in 2002 on a selected student’s sample from Asia identified considerable associations between classroom teaching strategies and students’ mathematics performance (Daniel para 1).
According to the researcher, teaching strategies such as cooperative learning and use of homework were found to invariably improve students’ performance on the subject (para 4-5).
This article offers a summary of previous researches attesting the fact that cooperative learning approaches in the classroom context have the capability to positively influence students’ mathematics performance since they encourage the students to develop more favourable attitudes towards the subject.
Such teaching approaches also improve students’ self-confidence and prospects to share mathematics-related problems.
According to Daniel, mathematics teachers should actively monitor classroom discussions while applying cooperative learning strategies with an aim of assisting the students to expand their mathematical reasoning abilities (para. 4). A research done by Cooper & Valentine (2001) revealed that “students who spend more time on homework tend to show higher levels of academic achievement” (para. 5).
Consequently, these teaching strategies serve to facilitate students’ mathematics performance by availing opportunities for enhanced practice, more frequent teacher-student and parent-child exchanges, enhanced learning involvement, and additional openings for peer interactions.
Most recently, a research conducted on a group of students from Maine revealed a striking correlation between use of technology as classroom instructional tools and improved mathematics performance among students (Silvernail & Buffington 10).
Earlier, a study conducted in Australia on the use of technology in the teaching of mathematics and other science-related subjects revealed that effective use of ICT in teaching facilitates a shift from traditional teacher-centred strategies to more flexible student-centred approaches (SEAMEO para. 14).
The SEAMEO project can only lead one to deduce that technologically oriented teaching approaches enhance students’ performance in mathematics as they are often characterized by collaborative and investigative strategies to the learning process.
This invariably enhances integration of content across the mathematics curriculum while laying particular emphasis on concept improvement and understanding.
Ultimately, adopting ICT in teaching strategies alters the balance of power and introduces a more conducive learning environment as both teachers and students become co-learners in the mathematics domain through the use of ICT tools.
Teacher Preparation and Performance
Teacher preparation is fundamentally related to students’ mathematics performance. Various studies conducted over time continue to reveal a strong correlation between adequate teacher preparation and improved mathematics performance (Goodboy & Myers 36).
The level of teacher preparedness to handle a class is influenced by several factors; key among them the training institutions attended, teaching resources at the disposal of teachers, and the efficacy and altitudes of individual teachers (Grouws 89).
A recent study on teacher preparation revealed that some training programmes made teachers to have considerably greater influence on students’ performance than others (Boyd et al. 26). This particular study found substantial variations across teacher training programs in the average effectiveness of the graduating teachers.
The findings reinforce the concept that some aspects contained in teacher preparation programs can make considerable difference in students’ performance. This is especially so for mathematics, as the subject is known to require comprehensive training skills.
According to the above study, “…teacher preparation that focuses more on the work of the classroom and provides opportunities for teachers to study what they will be doing produces teachers who are more effective in their first year of teaching” (Boyd et al. 26).
This is an essential indicator that adequate teacher preparation often leads to improved students mathematics performance. Unlike in many other subjects such as humanities, mathematics teachers need to undergo rigorous content preparation to understand the subject very well and exhibit unwavering pedagogical knowledge of the subject (“Preparing the Teachers” 2).
In essence, adequate teacher preparation is the most direct route that can be used to improve mathematics and science performance in our educational institutions. According to Boyd and his team of researchers, the effects of teacher preparation on any subject, including mathematics, are cumulative and long-lasting to the overall general performance of the students.
From the discussion above, it is vehemently clear that there exists a close correlation between students mathematics performance and teacher preparation.
The programs aimed at teacher preparation must, therefore, aspire to provide teachers with approaches and strategies to teach mathematics in ways that will aptly engage learners with the desired content (“Preparing the Teachers” 3).
The training programs must internalize in teachers a variety of techniques designed to assist them in structuring lessons as well as discovering the suitable learning approaches, comprehending concepts, and solving problems.
In all this, it should be remembered that “students can’t learn what they’re not taught, and teachers can’t teach what they don’t know” (2). In this respect, teachers need a methodical and supported induction into the mathematics teaching profession, as well as continuous professional development all through their careers (5).
Teacher Assistance and Performance
Teacher assistance can never be delineated from conventional learning experiences. In essence, the question should never be if teacher assistance is related to students’ performance; rather, the question should be how much assistance is required in different subjects to improve performance (Grouws 23).
According to the author, subjects such as mathematics and sciences definitely require more teacher assistance as they often deal with problem-solving (25).
Various studies conducted over time have revealed that teachers with excellent verbal and communication skills are also more likely to generate considerable student performance gains (“Preparing the Teachers” 2).
Other studies have reinforced the widely held belief that teacher assistance in a mathematics classroom works best when it is provided on individual or small group basis (“AYP Handbook” 1). Teacher assistance strategies must always ensure that students are able to communicate their mathematical approaches and understandings (2).
Teacher-Student Communication and Performance
A research done on indigenous and non-indigenous teaching methods in rural Queensland, Australia, revealed that the communication channels used in the classroom were fundamentally important for effective teaching (Cooper, Baturo, & Warren 271).
The way that teachers conduct classroom activities and communicate learning materials to the students determines if the students are able to decipher and retain the communicated material (Goodboy & Myers 12).
According to Roschelle, Penuel, & Abrahamson, classroom response strategies and communication systems enable the teachers to develop an instruction methodology that enhances questioning and feedback, scrutinize the participation of all learners, cultivate classroom discussions of essential concepts, and activate students thinking (1).
This clearly reveals that teacher-student communication is absolutely vital in determining the performance of students in various subjects, including mathematics.
Students must be offered the opportunity to express their ideas in an open and free manner.
Various studies conducted over time have clearly revealed that open and responsive classroom communication between the students and teachers results in higher student engagement, enhanced understanding of the subject, increased enjoyment of classroom activities, enhanced teacher-student interaction, and improved understanding of the needs and requirements of both students and teachers (Roschelle, Penuel, & Abrahamson 4).
What’s more, open communication systems acts as motivational incentives to the students (5).
In the mathematics context, effective and open communication channels are desirable as they enable the students to learn the subject with understanding, enthusiastically developing new knowledge and skills from experience and prior knowledge (Geoffrey & Marcus para. 1).
Furthermore, mathematics teachers must be encouraged to establish classroom communication channels that institutes and nurtures an environment where students collaborate and are at ease in discussing and evaluating their own mathematics ideas, concepts, strategies and solutions. Indeed, this should be the object of developing effective communication channels in a classroom setting.
Reform oriented mathematics instructional approaches are known to improve students’ mathematics performance more than traditional instruction strategies. However, the former can only be achieved through effective communication strategies and “dialogue among students and between the students and teachers” (Geoffrey & Marcus para. 4).
In essence, communication plays a fundamental role in a reform-oriented classroom and occurs in various ways, including sharing mathematics ideas and concepts at the board, overhead, or within a small group of students. These forms of communication avenues are known to aid in the development of mathematics understanding among the students (Grouws 654).
Teacher-Parent Communication and Performance
Various studies have found a link between teacher-parent communication on one hand and students mathematics performance on the other. A study commissioned by Kulm & Duncan (2004) revealed that the effectiveness of teacher-parent communication acts fundamentally to determine the children’s attitudes and educational achievement in school.
According to this particular study, the aspirations, interest, and persuasions of parental expectations are potentially imperative factors in directing student success or failure (Grouws 327).
According to the author, communication between parents and teachers is critically important as it assists in the creation of a joint partnership in which teachers and parents’ work towards the realization of the same objective – assisting the children to achieve success (329).
The guiding principle of any teacher-parent communication should be based on the premise that students learn best when the significant others – parents, guardians, teachers, and other community members – work together as a functional group to encourage and support them (Grouws 333).
This is an essential factor for any educational process. In mathematics context, it is important for teachers to develop close working relationships with parents to motivate the students in mathematics since the subject is known to occasion a lot of anxiety and curiosity.
A parent can also spend time with his or her child to watch the progress made in mathematics then communicate the key problem areas to the teacher either through face to face communication or through technology-based approaches such as email (Edwards 2).
Effective teacher-parent communication presents a window of opportunity that can aptly be used to determine how students perform in their chosen subjects, including mathematics.
Indeed, previous researches carried out by Rogers (2000) and Epstein (2004) revealed that students achieve higher academic performances in critical subjects such as mathematics and sciences if their parents are educated to university level and are directly involved in the children’s schooling (Grouws 267).
In the mathematics context, parents are required to watch the mathematics errors their children are making when doing their homework and share their insights with the teachers in an effective manner devoid of any criticism.
In all this, it is imperative to recognize the fact that both the parent and teacher bear a portion of the picture of the student’s educational development.
Each of the two significant others in the children’s growth and development can be more effectual when critical information about the child’s mathematics abilities and hardship areas is shared.
Morgan & Stanley (2002) study revealed that continuous teacher-parent communication assists in ensuring that both educational institutions and homes are receptive to the needs and requirements of students, and therefore supports the students’ overall development (Grouws 323).
From all the readings contained in this study, the evidence is clear that there exists a strong correlation between students’ mathematics performance and the support provided by teachers.
According to the review, it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the role of teacher-student interaction as well as teacher-parent communication can never be underestimated if a meaningful stride in students’ mathematics performance is to be achieved (Baker & LeTendre 67).
Important factors such as teacher-student efficacy, teaching strategies, teacher preparation, teacher assistance, teacher-student communication, and teacher-parent communication must all be harnessed and integrated into an all-inclusive approach that can be used to address issues of students’ performance in mathematics.
Mathematics as a subject is known to arouse curiosity among students. Without using this approach, the subject will be destined to cause more curiosity and anxiety among students.
It should be remembered that the “key to mathematical competence is learning with understanding so that students are able to reason, solve problems, and apply their learning to new situations” (“AYP Handbook” 1).
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