Enhancing teaching and learning of primary mathematics through the use of apps.

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Waikato
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2015
Project end date: 
March 2017
Principal investigator(s): 
Dr. Nigel Calder
Research team members: 
Dr Carol Murphy
Research partners: 
Teacher-partners: Rebekah Whyte, Tahatai Coast Primary School; Glen Storey, Te Akau Ki Papamoa Primary School; Monique Storey, Te Akau Ki Papamoa Primary School.

Project description

The focus of the project is on the effective use of mathematics apps with mobile devices. Researchers will work with practising teachers in two schools to evaluate how apps can be used as a mediating tool to support individual learning needs and enhance students’ conceptual understanding of primary mathematics.


The project aims to investigate the relationship between teachers’ technology, pedagogy and content knowledge (TPACK) and their selection and using apps to meet the needs of individual students.  One intention is to examine and identify ways to enhance the teachers’ TPACK, and hence, student mathematical understanding. This investigation will deepen our understanding of how digital technology can be used to create learning experiences and enhance conceptual understanding. 
The TPACK model will be used to explore and understand the relationship between teacher content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and knowledge of technology in relation to apps with mobile devices. It is not the intention of the project to measure teachers’ TPACK but to use the model with the teachers as a lens to co-reflect on exploration and advancement of mathematics pedagogy towards a more student-centric pedagogy. The model will be used to identify how an advancement of teaching practices is influenced by, and in turn influences, the teachers’ focus on specific mathematics ideas. The evaluations of the teachers will be used to identify emerging themes related to students’ learning. In particular, how a move in pedagogy that is afforded through the use of apps can, not only enhance, engage, and empower students in learning mathematics, but also support their conceptual understanding.

Why is this research important?

Apps with mobile devices have an ease of access in the classroom and hence the potential to enable dynamic, responsive differentiation of the learning for individual students. However, the indiscriminate use of apps is most likely to be ineffective in supporting individual needs and in enhancing students’ conceptual understanding.  The proliferation of apps requires proficiency in selection and use by the teacher. Research is needed to examine how teachers select and use apps to meet student needs and enhance learning. It is anticipated that critical reflection on the potential use of apps as a mediating tool for learning will impact on teaching and student achievement.

What we plan to do

The project consists of key components:
• Teachers’ identification and evaluation of their pedagogical practice in relation to the TPACK model.
• Analysis of the relationship between teachers’ evolving TPACK and use of apps to meet individual student learning.
• Co-construction of a framework for professional inquiry that can be widely disseminated.
• Co-construction of implications for classroom practice.

Throughout the project there will be on-going design research iterations through three phases:
• Planning and preparation.
• Implementation and reflection on emerging themes.
• Development of the framework.

These phases will be carried out with the initial teacher-partners and then further refined in the second year within a teacher-research group in each school. There will be a final retrospective analysis phase.

Data collected will include:
• Interviews with teachers and students;
• Video material and transcripts;
• Field notes and reflections;
• Teacher and student online case-studies/blogs; and
• Student classroom mathematics assessment.

The qualitative data will be analysed using inductive methods in order to identify emerging themes in relation to teachers’ evolving TPACK and student learning.

Our partners

Both Tahatai Coast Primary School and Te Akau Ki Papamoa Primary School have a long-established partnership with The University of Waikato in teacher education and teacher professional development. The three teacher-partners in these schools are experts in the use of digital technology in the primary classrooms.
The project is an opportunity to extend our partnership and for teachers and researchers to collaborate as partners in investigating an area of mutual interest and in developing classroom practice.