Developing Indonesian grade 8 students’ spatial ability to support mathematics learning

  • Destina Winarti

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

    Abstract

    This study examined the efficacy of a spatial-mathematics intervention on students’ mathematics performance and spatial ability. Spatial ability is a strong predictor of success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and is especially useful because STEM occupations have a higher growth rate than other occupations. Although the impact of spatial ability is a burgeoning field of research almost all studies focus on Western societies and high-income countries and the emphasis is largely on adults or young children. This study expanded the area of enquiry into a non-Western and non- high-income country, Indonesia, and focused on adolescent students (i.e., Grade 8).
    The research focused on three main aspects: the efficacy of the spatial-mathematics intervention in improving students’ mathematics performance and spatial ability, gender differences in both mathematics performance and spatial ability, and ways in which the spatial mathematics intervention provides opportunities to promote students’ spatial thinking within the school mathematics curriculum.
    In examining these three aspects, this experimental study used both quantitative and qualitative research approaches. The spatial-mathematics intervention design was implemented across 12 classrooms in the experimental group, with no intervention in another seven classrooms as a control group. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was conducted to examine the efficacy of the spatial-mathematics intervention on students’ mathematics and spatial abilities as well as to see whether gender differences existed among the students in terms of their mathematics performance and spatial ability. In addition to the quantitative analysis, an instrumental case study was conducted to gain insight into ways that the spatial-mathematics intervention provided opportunities to promote students’ spatial thinking within the school mathematics curriculum.
    The results of the ANCOVA analysis revealed significant differences between the experimental and control groups in favour of experimental group for overall mathematics performance, geometry and non-geometry strands of mathematics, as well as in non-novel and novel mathematics test-items. There was also a significant difference in the spatial visualisation construct, in favour of the experimental group. In contrast to these findings, there were no significant differences found between the experimental and control groups in their overall spatial ability, mental rotation and spatial orientation constructs. In conclusion, the spatial-mathematics intervention had a significantly positive impact on students’ mathematics performance and spatial visualisation ability.
    Regarding gender differences, the ANCOVA analysis revealed no significant gender effect on students’ mathematics performance. Meanwhile, gender effect was found in students’ overall spatial ability as well as in spatial orientation and mental rotation constructs, but not in students’ spatial visualisation construct. In conclusion, gender differences were not found in students’ mathematics performance, but were found in students’ spatial ability particularly spatial orientation and mental rotation.
    To further understand how the spatial-mathematics intervention provides opportunities to promote students’ spatial thinking within the school mathematics curriculum, an instrumental case study was conducted in one class which had made significant improvements in both the geometry and non-geometry strands of mathematics, as well as spatial visualisation ability. The case study revealed two key findings:
    1. The degree of success in the use of spatial tools (i.e., spatial language, gestures, representations) to promote spatial ability and help the teacher to explicate the mathematical concepts, depended on how the teacher utilised these tools. In other words, the teacher’s enactment of the visualise-predict-check (VPC) heuristic contributed to organising the use of spatial tools during the spatial-mathematics intervention.
    2. The way the teachers enacted the VPC instructions had an important role in promoting students’ spatial ability. Clear and explicit instructions from the teacher, proper timing and sufficient time allocation in every stage of the VPC gave opportunities for students to develop their spatial ability.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTom Lowrie (Supervisor), Sitti Patahuddin (Supervisor) & Robyn Jorgensen (Supervisor)

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