Supporting year 8 Islamic/Arabic students in learning algebra : implications of the realistic and authentic teaching intervention program

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- Mathematics literacy among Year 8 students in Australia is considered to be at a high level (TIMSS, 1999). However, determining equivalent equations, translating and solving word problems, and solving complex equations remain difficult areas for students. In particular, students who belong to cultural minorities and have English as their. second language find these areas challenging. The current study identified some of the factors that hinder Year 8 students with Islamic background in learning the basic foundations of algebra and tested a teaching intervention program aimed at improving the algebraic skills of Year 8 Arabic students in Australia. This study presents a case study of Year 8 students in an Islamic secondary school in New South Wales, Australia, involving 13 male language-minority students with an Islamic background. Before the actual study, a pilot study was conducted involving three female students with the same background. The 13 students underwent a diagnostic pre-test to the level of their skills regarding algebra and were interviewed to evaluate their ability to solve problems and equations and to analyse their own answers verbally. The pre-test performance of the students in determining equivalent equations, translating and solving word problems, and solving complex equations was not encouraging, with low scores in all of these areas. Results showed that the students had significant difficulties dealing with algebraic problems and were at a disadvantage because the medium of instruction was English. An intervention program was developed specifically addressing language, context, attitude, background and cultural issues, as well as the identified conceptual difficulties. Post-intervention performance showed remarkable improvements in the students' understanding of algebraic concepts. The intervention also gave the students more confidence in their problem solving. The teaching program was associated with improved scores in algebra tests and developed algebraic skills. The post-test showed that using both languages (Arabic and English) helped the students learn and allowed them to exhibit better performance in algebra. The finding of the study was that algebra can only be taught and learned successfully if the teaching takes account of students' language background and real-life experiences and provides learning experiences that are culturally appropriate and significant to instructors and students alike. In addition, the study found that the teaching intervention program reduced and minimised the language problem. Overall, this study suggests that any teaching intervention program targeting students in minority language groups should address language, background, contextual, and cultural issues.
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