Graphical Languages in Mathematics (GLIM)
How Primary School students become code-breakers of information graphics in Mathematics is an exciting collaborative project that was undertaken from 2004 to 2007 by Professor Carmel Diezmann, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, and Professor Tom Lowrie, Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Wagga Wagga. This research project was federally funded by the Australian Research Council and focused on children’s understanding of graphics in mathematics.
The aim of the project was to understand how primary students (aged 9-12 years) learn about general purpose graphical languages that are important in mathematics (e.g., graphs, diagrams, charts, tables and maps). In this day and age, it is essential that all children have the skills to interpret the graphical languages that are such a large part of the Mathematics curriculum. By monitoring the development of students’ knowledge of information graphics over three years, an understanding was formed of how children ‘code-break’ the different types of graphics that they encounter in their everyday mathematics lessons.
A cohort of approximately 330 students (beginning in Year 5 in Queensland and Year 4 in New South Wales during 2004) undertook the Graphical Languages in Mathematics (GLIM test) annually from 2004 to 2006. A separate cohort of approximately 100 children (beginning in Year 5 in Queensland and Year 4 in New South Wales during 2005) undertook two interview sessions on an annual basis for three years, beginning in 2005. The 12 mathematical items were taken from the GLIM test. During the interviews, children worked on 12 different mathematical tasks each year, and were video and audio-taped whilst describing how they solved the items.
The interviews were conducted at the participants’ schools by research staff from either QUT or CSU. Video-tapes, audio-tapes, photographs and work samples from the project have been used in reporting the outcomes of this research.
Early Primary Graphical Languages in Mathematics (EPGLIM)
Improving numeracy outcomes and mathematics capability: Understanding young students’ interpretation of graphics is another collaborative project being undertaken by Professors Diezmann and Lowrie during 2008 to 2011. The EPGLIM project was also federally funded by the Australian Research Council and focuses on younger children (aged 8-10 years) and their understanding of graphics in mathematics such as graphs, diagrams, charts and maps. The project builds on research conducted during the Graphical Languages in Mathematics (GLIM) project, which monitored the development of students aged 9-12 years.
During the EPGLIM project, approximately 400 children (beginning in Year 3 in Queensland and Year 2 in the Australian Capital Territory during 2008) undertook the Early Primary Graphical Languages in Mathematics (EPGLIM) test annually from 2008 to 2010. Another cohort of approximately 100 students (beginning in Year 3 in Queensland and Year 2 in New South Wales during 2009) participated in two interview sessions each year (from 2009 to 2011). During the interviews, students solved 12 to 14 items taken from the EPGLIM test. As in the GLIM project, the students were video and audio-taped whilst describing how they solved the tasks. The first 6 items in the interview booklets remained the same over the three years, and the remaining 6 items (all from a particular graphical language) changed from year to year according to research focus. The mass testing and interviews were conducted at the participants’ schools by research staff from either QUT or CSU.
Outcomes of the GLIM and EPGLIM research projects
The results of the two studies will provide a comprehensive understanding of the development of students’ mathematical graphics skills during the primary years. Knowing how young students’ knowledge of graphics develops and how they learn about graphics will help teachers and teacher educators design ways to improve the teaching of mathematics in the early years. It is expected that the knowledge gained will help teachers and educators to design appropriate student and teacher education programs, curriculum materials and documents to improve the teaching of mathematics. It will also help to select and design appropriate print and electronic resources to support this learning. Essentially, these improved mathematics programs and resources will expose essential skills and the necessary knowledge to comprehend mathematical graphics information.