Primary students’ interpretation of maps : gesture use and mapping knowledge

Logan, Tracy Michelle (2010) Primary students’ interpretation of maps : gesture use and mapping knowledge. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Maps are used to represent three-dimensional space and are integral to a range of everyday experiences. They are increasingly used in mathematics, being prominent both in school curricula and as a form of assessing students understanding of mathematics ideas. In order to successfully interpret maps, students need to be able to understand that maps: represent space, have their own perspective and scale, and their own set of symbols and texts. Despite the fact that maps have an increased prevalence in society and school, there is evidence to suggest that students have difficulty interpreting maps. This study investigated 43 primary-aged students’ (aged 9-12 years) verbal and gestural behaviours as they engaged with and solved map tasks. Within a multiliteracies framework that focuses on spatial, visual, linguistic, and gestural elements, the study investigated how students interpret map tasks. Specifically, the study sought to understand students’ skills and approaches used to solving map tasks and the gestural behaviours they utilised as they engaged with map tasks. The investigation was undertaken using the Knowledge Discovery in Data (KDD) design. The design of this study capitalised on existing research data to carry out a more detailed analysis of students’ interpretation of map tasks. Video data from an existing data set was reorganised according to two distinct episodes—Task Solution and Task Explanation—and analysed within the multiliteracies framework. Content Analysis was used with these data and through anticipatory data reduction techniques, patterns of behaviour were identified in relation to each specific map task by looking at task solution, task correctness and gesture use. The findings of this study revealed that students had a relatively sound understanding of general mapping knowledge such as identifying landmarks, using keys, compass points and coordinates. However, their understanding of mathematical concepts pertinent to map tasks including location, direction, and movement were less developed. Successful students were able to interpret the map tasks and apply relevant mathematical understanding to navigate the spatial demands of the map tasks while the unsuccessful students were only able to interpret and understand basic map conventions. In terms of their gesture use, the more difficult the task, the more likely students were to exhibit gestural behaviours to solve the task. The most common form of gestural behaviour was deictic, that is a pointing gesture. Deictic gestures not only aided the students capacity to explain how they solved the map tasks but they were also a tool which assisted them to navigate and monitor their spatial movements when solving the tasks. There were a number of implications for theory, learning and teaching, and test and curriculum design arising from the study. From a theoretical perspective, the findings of the study suggest that gesturing is an important element of multimodal engagement in mapping tasks. In terms of teaching and learning, implications include the need for students to utilise gesturing techniques when first faced with new or novel map tasks. As students become more proficient in solving such tasks, they should be encouraged to move beyond a reliance on such gesture use in order to progress to more sophisticated understandings of map tasks. Additionally, teachers need to provide students with opportunities to interpret and attend to multiple modes of information when interpreting map tasks.

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ID Code: 40759
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Diezmann, Carmel & Lowrie, Tom
Keywords: mathematics education, maps, map reading, graphics tasks, gestural behaviours, assessment, spatial reasoning
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 15 Mar 2011 05:33
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 20:01

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