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Fiji and New Zealand Pasifika students' perceptions of mathematics and their attitudes towards mathematics learning

Abstract This thesis explores the perceptions and attitudes towards mathematics learning of 36 students from Fiji and 12 Pasifika students living in New Zealand. The students were in Years 7 and 8, included a range of abilities in maths as assessed by their teachers. The New Zealand (NZ) students attended a school that had participated in the Numeracy Development Project (NDP) several years prior to the study. Data was collected using semi-structured and clinical interviews. Seven key questions were the main focus of this study. The students were asked about their views on: working collectively or individually, the importance of knowing and sharing solution strategies with others, the nature of mathematics, people who supported their maths learning, their attitudes towards mathematics, and how good they thought they were at maths. They solved problems involving subtraction, division and proportional problems. The findings revealed that nearly all of the Fiji students but just over half of the NZ students supported group work. On their views about the value of knowing others' strategies, nearly seven tenths of the Fiji students and just under a half of the NZ students thought that it was important. However, all the children were unanimous in their view that explaining their solution strategies to others was important. The findings also revealed that nearly all the students from both countries thought that mathematics was about numbers and operations. Most of the Fiji children commented that it was also about problem solving, whereas the NZ students mentioned having alternative strategies as what they thought mathematics all about. The students' views about a teacher's role in helping them learn mathematics greatly differed between the two countries. Slightly more than half of the Fiji students thought that the teacher's role was to show them strategies. The Fiji students also described their teachers as someone who gave them notes to copy and provided exercises from the textbook. In contrast the NZ students mentioned their teacher as someone who helped their mathematics learning by sharing clues, giving tasks that challenged them and grouped them by ability before helping them. The responses of all the students revealed that there was great support from friends, parents and relatives towards their mathematics learning. The students also rated their feelings towards mathematics on a three-point rating scale with happy, neutral and sad faces. Half of the students from both countries chose the happy face with the other half choosing the neutral face. None of them chose the sad face as matching how they felt about maths most of the time. The students also assessed themselves on how good they were at maths. The majority of the students from both countries rated themselves as good and none of them chose the box showing very poor . The students were asked to do some tasks on subtraction, division and proportional problems. There was a major contrast between the two countries on how they worked out their answers. The Fiji students' responses showed their fluency with standard written algorithms and a high level of procedural knowledge. The NZ students on the other hand hardly used algorithms. Instead their responses showed the use of mental strategies for solving tasks ranging from stage 2, (counting from one on materials) to stage 7, (advanced multiplicative part-whole) on the NDP Number Framework.
Type of thesis
Balenaivalu, S. (2008). Fiji and New Zealand Pasifika students’ perceptions of mathematics and their attitudes towards mathematics learning (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4272
The University of Waikato
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