Mathematical modelling through top-level structure

Doyle, Katherine Mary (2006) Mathematical modelling through top-level structure. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Mathematical modelling problems are embedded in written, representational, and graphic text. For students to actively engage in the mathematical-modelling process, they require literacy. Of critical importance is the comprehension of the problems' text information, data, and goals. This design-research study investigated the application of top-level structuring; a literary, organisational, structuring strategy, to mathematical-modelling problems. The research documents how students' mathematical modelling was changed when two classes of Year 4 students were shown, through a series of lessons, how to apply top-level structure to two scientifically-based, mathematical-modelling problems.

The methodology used a design-based research approach, which included five phases.

During Phase One, consultations took place with the principal and participant teachers. As well, information on student numeracy and literacy skills was gathered from the Queensland Year 3 'Aspects of Numeracy' and 'Aspects of Literacy' tests. Phase Two was the initial implementation of top-level structure with one class of students. In Phase Three, the first mathematical-modelling problem was implemented with the two Year 4 classes. Data was collected through video and audio taping, student work samples, teacher and researcher observations, and student presentations. During Phase Four, the top-level structure strategy was implemented with the second Year 4 class. In Phase Five, the second mathematical-modelling problem was investigated by both classes, and data was again collected through video and audio taping, student work samples, teacher and researcher observations, and student presentations.

The key finding was that top-level structure had a positive impact on students' mathematical modelling. Students were more focussed on mathematising, acquired key mathematical knowledge, and used high-level, mathematically-based peer questioning and responses after top-level structure instruction.

This research is timely and pertinent to the needs of mathematics education today because of its recognition of the need for mathematical literacy. It reflects international concerns on the need for more research in problem solving. It is applicable to real-world problem solving because mathematical-modelling problems are focussed in real-world situations. Finally, it investigates the role literacy plays in the problem-solving process.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16391
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: English, Lyndall & Watters, James
Keywords: mathematical modelling, problem solving, mathematising, mathematical knowledge, literacy, top-level structure, comprehension, discourse, oral communication, written communication, science, design research, metacognition, meta-language
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Katherine Mary Doyle
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:02
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:47

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