The use of mathematical resources to teach number concepts in the foundation phase
The poor performance of learners in mathematics has long been a matter of concern in South Africa. One certain fact from the Annual National Assessment (ANA) results is that the problem starts in the Foundation Phase (FP) with number concepts. The aim of this study was to explore how five Foundation Phase teachers located in challenging socio-economic school contexts in the Western Cape used mathematical resources to promote teaching for understanding of the important number concept area in CAPS. These resources included humans, materials, culture and time. The research was located within the interpretive qualitative research paradigm and used a case study approach. The participants in the study included five FP teachers teaching Grades 1 to 3 at two schools in the Western Cape. Data was collected through lesson plan analysis, lesson observations and semi-structured interviews. The data collected was then analysed through the lens of Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory. Socio-cultural theory maintains that knowledge is best acquired if it is mediated by language, more knowledgeable others and physical tools. Vygotsky believed that knowledge is first acquired interpersonally, then intrapersonally, as learners first learn from others, then internalise or individualise knowledge while going through the four stages of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The findings of this study revealed that teaching for understanding was often compromised by teaching to enable learners to pass assessments. Teachers understood the importance of using resources to teach number concepts in the Foundation Phase, but inclined to rote teaching with work drills in preparation for assessments such as the Annual National Assessment (ANA) and the systemic assessment. Resources were often used when learners struggled to understand concepts and as calculation tools. This study supports the view from the literature that the way in which resources are used affects the teaching and learning of number concepts. It recommends that teachers should read and follow the CAPS mathematics document, as it clearly states what resources to use and how. This study further recommends that more research on the use of resources to teach mathematics in other content areas should be done.