Research Paper on Social-Cultural Theory in Learning Mathematics

Published: 2021-07-08
1809 words
7 pages
16 min to read
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The impact of Vygotsky's social-cultural theory on education is very huge. Although Vygotsky does not deny the roles of biological factors in the ability to learn, he insists that the role of cultural interaction in a person's mental development is very vital. The social settings in which a child develops are very crucial, and they are a determinant in the development of higher mental capabilities such as intentional memory, logical thought, voluntary attention and problem solving (Karpov, 2006). The social-cultural theory is based on learners interaction with other people, their interaction with their culture and interactions among themselves. The importance of learning experience on a child's cognitive and the major effect of language on mental development is also emphasized by the theory.

Communication is very important is the social-cultural theory. In the classroom, the theory insists on maximizing communication between students and between teachers and students (Steel, 2001). The students are expected to learn from the interaction with their peers and from the culture. This article will explain the key aspects of the Vygotsky's social-cultural theory, and then these aspects will be implemented in a classroom application to test its effectiveness. It will be implemented in a mathematical class to increase the understanding of the student. The author uses the theory on grade 1 math class, and lesson plans are drawn up. These plans include increasing interaction between students in class by use of cooperative learning and peer-marking of tutorials. Scaffolding is also implemented as the teacher is around in class to assist students where they get stuck. The project involves the creation of lesson plans for a math class for grade 1 students. The teacher utilizes the social-cultural theory in the preparation of the plans. The lesson plans will incorporate what will be taught, methods of preparation and materials required for the classes.

Literature Review

The social-cultural theory is a psychological theory developed by a Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. This theory explains the vital contributions made by society to the development of an individual. This theory insists on interactions between people and the environment they live in. According to the social-cultural theory, human learning is a social process. The role of parents, relatives, and peers in the learning process of children is very crucial. According to Vygotsky et al. (1978), the social-cultural theory is the belief that a child's social development appears twice; initially on society basis and then later on an individual basis. Vygotsky developed this theory as a response to behaviorism. This is the first aspect of the Vygotskys social-cultural theory. Vygotsky agrees that children are born with mental constraints. However, the culture allows children to adapt by providing "tools of intellectual adaptation" (Vygotsky et al., 1978). These tools enable children to utilize their limited mental capabilities in a way that adapts to the culture.

Vygotsky's sociocultural theory also states that cognitive development in children is limited to a zone of proximal development (ZPD). The zone refers to an area where the child is cognitively prepared to explore but requires help through interaction with the society to fully explore the ZPD (Rojas-Drummond and Mercer, 2003). ZPD addresses three key issues. First, it acknowledges that the development of mental functionalities in children is incomplete, but it is a continuing process. Secondly, it recognizes the importance of assistance from adults or peers in the learning process. Lastly, it separates the actual and potential learning capabilities. These issues can be expounded using three assumptions. Generality assumption assumes that a child can complete some tasks. However, with some assistance, the child can accomplish more tasks. Assistance assumptions guide on how to interact with a child when assisting him to accomplish a task. The potential assumption is based on the readiness of a child to learn.

Scaffolding was added to social-cultural theory as a description of the interaction between children and adults where adults assist children in the completion of tasks in which the children cannot complete alone (Kozulin, 2007). Scaffolding is vital as it shows the importance of interaction in the learning process and the effect of other people on learning. Scaffolding guides on how skilled people especially teachers should assist learners on task completion while considering the learning capacity of the child (Rojas-Drummond and Mercer, 2003).

Vygotsky believed that the private speech, which is defined as people talking to themselves, of a child was the start-point of mental growth (Lantolf, 2009). Use of private speech enabled a childs converted a childs biological instincts into culturally acceptable ways. A child uses private speech as a guide to enable him to carry out a task. This speech changes as a child grow older from a loud voice to an internal voice. Social-cultural theory insists on the importance of pretending to play mental development of a child (Gestwicki, 2007). Pretend play involves role-play where a child pretends to be someone else. The pretense to play acts as a crucial form of learning, especially in pre-school days. This form of play is vital in the development of creativity, social competence, and understanding of others. Many children have imaginary friends, or they personify an object. The development of a child's capability to think from different perspectives due to pretend play cannot be overlooked (Seifert, 2004).

According to Vygotskys concept of ZPD, a childs mental development is a combination of what tasks a child can accomplish independently and the tasks the child requires assistance to accomplish (Verenikina, 2008). Knowledge of these levels by a teacher is important as it assists the teacher to assess the learning capability of the child. This concept does not mean that a child can be taught anything. A child can only be taught things that lie within their zone of proximate development (Goldstein, 2015). Teaching difficult and complex concepts has no major impact on the development of a child. It is, thus, very important for children to be taught concepts that are within their level of understanding. For proper guidance, the relevant approved curriculum should be used.

In the classroom, information about ZPD can be used in several ways. Classroom instructions can be planned so that they lie in the childrens zone of proximate development (Antonacci, 2000). Hints that assist children in assessment could be used in instruction. Group learning could be incorporated so that children at different levels could assist each other in the learning process (Lantolf, 2009). Scaffolding involves assisting children in their zone of proximal development by the provision of hints (Sargent, 2014). The hints simplify a childs role in learning. An example of scaffolding can be shown in a high school science class. A teacher will give detailed instructions on how to carry out laboratory experiment then allow the student to set up the experiment on their own.

According to the social-cultural theory, whatever is learned has to be taught (Wilhelm et al., 2007). In Vygotskys theory, a classroom should consist of small groups of children, engaged in co-operative learning, and solving problems (Blake & Pope, 2008). The teacher should be there to assist children where they are stuck. Teachers should be encouraged to use modeling, explaining and guided practice in the classroom (Coffey, 2008). This will guide the learners comprehensively on the task they are supposed to complete.

In the US, Mathematics is stereotyped as a difficult subject. Students perceive math as challenging and hard to comprehend. To teach it more effectively, new teaching methods are required. These new methods should make the learning process fun and more interactive. In this project, lesson plans are created based on the social-cultural theory. The lesson plans hope to incorporate peer learning and scaffolding techniques in a mathematical class for grade one students.

Purpose of the Exploration

This project involves the creation of lesson guides for mathematics students in grade 1. These lessons will include major concepts of the social-cultural theory such as scaffolding and cooperative learning among peers. The math dealt with will be based on the national curriculum in the United States. The students will be encouraged to be encouraged to find their personal zones of personal development. Peer to peer interaction will also be encouraged. I hope scaffolding and peer to peer interaction will enable my students to comprehend mathematical operations.

I will encourage the students to express their knowledge in basic mathematical operations and counting through group discussion, group assignments, individual tasks such as counting and writing and feedback session with their classmates and the teacher. These sessions are to be carried at the beginning of the academic year when the information is still new to the students. It is also my intention that these lessons will give the students a strong foundation in mathematics that will be put into practice as the academic year advances. It is my belief that this project will be more beneficial to my students compared to conventional learning methods and it will improve their understanding of mathematics.

Lesson Plans

Date: September 2017

Time: 1 week, one-hour periods daily

Teachers name: John DavidsNumber of students present: approximately 20 students

Level of class: Grade 1

Topic of Lesson: Introduction to Mathematics

Aims of the lesson: In introduction to mathematics, I hope to assist my students in

Reviewing previously learned math in kindergarten such as Counting 1-20, writing 1-20, etc.

Learn how to add and subtract numbers between 1 and 20.

Learn how to use strategies such as counting on in subtraction and addition.

Learn how to decompose a number to a multiple of 10 when to make adding easier.

Learn to apply properties of operations as strategies of addition and subtraction.

Learn the relationship between addition and subtraction.

Learn how to count and write numbers between 20 and 100

Learn about place values of ones and tenths and their importance in mathematics.

Learn about the peer-revision process and then try peer-editing.

Prerequisite Knowledge: The students are expected to have basic knowledge in reading and writing in English. The ability of children to be able to write mathematical numbers in both words and numerals is important in the undertaking of this class. The student will be expected to be able to count and write from 1 to 20. The children were also expected to know basic mathematical signs such as the additional sign (+), subtraction sign (-) and equal sign (=). It was also important for the students to know the basic shapes such as circles and rectangles.





Overhead projector, plastic overhead sheets & markers

Paper copies of the lesson worksheets for all students

Plastic beads

Papers containing shapes which are to be added.

Cards containing numbers between 21 and 120

Red marker pens

Day One

Objective: The students should be able to add numbers between 1 and 20.

The objective will be written on the board to ensure that the students comprehend the goals of the lesson. Knowledge of the goals ensures that understands what is expected of them before the end of the lesson

As the teacher, first I will read the objective to my students. I will explain it to them and ensure that they understand what is expected of them by the end of the class.

I will then review the knowledge learned in kindergarten by ask...

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