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3. Method and framework
4. Results and finding
4.1. Sub question 1: Does the permeation of using calculator affect the overall mathematics ability of the students?
4.2. Sub question 2: Does the permeation of using calculator affect the performance of the students?
4.3. Sub question 3: How did the use of calculator affect the students' attitude towards learning mathematics?
The implementation of using calculators in the Irish Junior Certificate Mathematics curriculum and examinations brought about discussions about its impact on students’ performance and learning attitudes. To compare the difference before and after implementation, we adopted experimental-type studies to find out the influence. There are two groups of Grade 9 students: the pre-intervention group and the post-intervention group. The research discovered that phase II students (using the calculators) got better Mathematics results and they thought using calculators can reduce the frequency of making mistakes. Despite such contribution, phase I students thought using calculators make students lazy. Based on our research, compulsory use of calculator in Mathematics education is a good decision, as it improved students’ Mathematics performance and students became more motivated to learn. The most important reason of this is because students think using calculator can help them save more time.
In 2004, the usage of calculators was actively promoted into the Irish Junior Certificate Mathematics curriculum and examinations. Our research aims at discussing whether or not compulsory use of calculators in Mathematics education is a good decision. There are two phases in this study to examine the students’ performance difference before and after implementation of compulsory calculator use in Junior Certificate Mathematics examination. Phase I is to examine the performance of ninth-grade students in their centralized junior-secondary Mathematics examination where calculators were not allowed due to their mathematics curriculum. Phase II is three years later, when students are allowed to use the calculators doing the same tests.
Since the revised calculator-friendly curriculum was introduced in 2000 and implemented in 2003 for the first time, these Phase I groups are in fact the last group not using calculators in a centralized Irish junior-secondary Mathematics examination and Phase II the first group using calculators. This research chose these two target groups to study this issue at this time because this is the only time we can find appropriate target groups for this research. The non-using calculator groups graduate from junior secondary education after this and the using-calculator groups have not reached junior secondary exit level yet before this.
Our research aims at figuring out students’ performance and learning-mathematics-attitude difference before and after the allowance on the use of calculators. Our first sub-question, therefore, tries to find out whether the permeation of using calculator would affect the overall Mathematics ability of students. Whether an education policy benefits students, ability is very often the focus. After knowing whether the policy is beneficial, then we move on to study its influence on student’s overall performances. The second sub-question therefore is: does the permeation of using calculator affect the performance of the students? After that, we have to study the policy’s impact on students’ attitude, to wholly evaluate its efficiency and effectiveness, as a good policy does not only enables people, but also motivates people. Thus, our third sub-question is: how did the use of calculator affect the students' attitude towards learning mathematics?
This research tested 1,469 Irish grade 9 students, which is the last group of students before the implementation of the Junior Certificate mathematics curriculum (i.e. the new syllabus of teaching mathematics with calculator).
Data are collected through three calculator-related mathematics tests included calculator inappropriate test (i.e. simple tests that do not require a calculator), calculator optional test with calculator access (i.e. calculator-allowed intermediate-difficulty-level tests), calculator optional test without calculator access (i.e. calculator-banned intermediate-difficulty-level tests) and calculator appropriate tests (i.e. more difficult tests which normally require a calculator for junior secondary level students). For research goals, the test was integrated with different mathematics aspects to show students’ mathematical skills with and without using calculator. The content inside those tests includes multiple-choice and short questions in four main mathematical topics: applied number systems, arithmetic/measure, algebra and statistics.
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