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PUTTING CONTEXT IN CONTEXT: AN EXAMINATION OF THE EVIDENCE FOR THE BENEFITS OF ‘CONTEXTUALISED’ TASKS

  • Kim Beswick
Article

Abstract

The professional literature in mathematics education is replete with calls to use tasks that are ‘authentic’, ‘relevant’ and related to ‘real life’ and the ‘real world’. Such activities are frequently advocated for their potential to motivate and engage students, but evidence of their ability to do so is rarely presented. This paper examines evidence in relation to the effectiveness of context problems in achieving their intended purposes and thereby contributing to enhanced student participation, engagement and achievement in mathematics education. It is argued that context problems are not a panacea and that categorising problems as contextualised or de-contextualised is less helpful than the consideration of more salient aspects of tasks that impact on their effectiveness. Such aspects also relate to the purposes for and affordances and limitations of particular tasks in relation to the purposes they are intended to serve, along with attention to the contexts in which students learn mathematics. Examples of theoretical and empirical programs built on these considerations are reviewed in terms of their potential to enhance participation, engagement and achievement in school mathematics.

Key words

authentic tasks mathematics education participation realistic contexts relevance student engagement understanding 

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Copyright information

© National Science Council, Taiwan 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of TasmaniaLauncestonAustralia

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