Cooperative Learning in Mathematics
Low test scores and lack of motivation in mathematics by students in grade school is an issue that has recently been put under the spotlight. According to a study done in 2003, mathematics achievement levels in the United States are much lower than those in other developing countries. The results of this study show that the US is ranked 15th among the 47 participating countries in the 2003 NAEP Mathematics vs. TIMSS Mathematics for At or Above Proficient with 28.8% of students at or above the proficient level (Hambleton, 387). Mathematics seems to be the subject that a lot of students struggle with and simply dislike. For this reason, teachers and administrators have developed teaching strategies and techniques that help children improve their learning in mathematics. One of the most effective of these techniques that has been tested in multiple classrooms across the country is called cooperative learning. Cooperative learning is when small groups of students work jointly and help each other to learn new material and work out problems with the supervision and assistance of the classroom teacher (Artzt, 2-3). This teaching strategy is often beneficial because it helps to improve social skills and communication in mathematics, and increase academic motivation and achievement; however, there are some concerns that teachers do not know how to properly implement cooperative learning and students may not fully understand its concepts.
Because students are required to work together, voice their opinions, and help each other learn the material, cooperative learning improves their social skills by showing them the importance of demonstrating respect and patience to their classmates (Artzt, 4). Communicating the material is an essential skill to have in a mathematics classroom. According to scholars David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, “if mathematics instruction is to help students think mathematically, understand the connections among various mathematical facts and procedures, and be able to apply formal mathematical knowledge flexibly and meaningfully, cooperative learning must be employed in mathematics classes” (Walmsley, 2). When students are asked to communicate their mathematical knowledge, it forces them to not only obtain the correct answer but also to explain their calculations and thought processes. In saying this, cooperative learning helps students who may be shy or have trouble speaking in front of the class because in most classrooms where cooperative learning is implemented, students must demonstrate to their classmates how they obtained their answers and help them to better understand the problem.
By allowing children to work in groups, cooperative learning techniques provide them with support from their classmates to help them achieve their learning goals. During class, students have the opportunity to help each other to learn the material, work out problems, and share with the rest of the...