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Title: Mathematical literacy and assessment : differences between the PISA study paradigm and mathematics teachers’ conceptions
Authors: Dabic Boricic, Milana
Vulic, Ivana
Videnovic, Marina
Keywords: Mathematical ability -- Testing
Mathematical ability in children -- Serbia
Mathematics teachers -- Serbia
Problem solving -- Ability testing
Cognition -- Testing
Issue Date: 2020-08
Publisher: University of Malta. Faculty of Education
Citation: Dabic Boricic, M., Vulic, I., & Videnovic, M. (2020). Mathematical literacy and assessment : differences between the PISA study paradigm and mathematics teachers’ conceptions. Malta Review of Educational Research, 14(S), 101-121.
Abstract: OECD/PISA 2012 survey data showed that mathematical literacy achievement in Serbia is 50 points below the OECD average, while approximately 40% of the students fall into the functionally illiterate group. At the same time, more than half of the students in Serbia reported a high level of mathematics related anxiety. A possible explanation for the low score on the PISA survey lies in the incompatibility of mathematics’ teaching practices in the Serbian education system and the functional knowledge assessed by PISA. This study aims to examine mathematics teachers’ conceptions of mathematical literacy and the assessment of mathematical knowledge. For this purpose, in-depth interviews with 15 mathematics teachers (from primary and secondary schools) and university mathematics professors (from Mathematics Faculty and Teacher Education Faculty) were performed. The participants were asked to define mathematical literacy and to express their opinion regarding the entrance exam (obligatory exam for 14-year-old students finishing primary school), the PISA survey, their assessment practice, and different types of mathematical tasks (PISA tasks and traditional tasks). The participants’ answers to these topics were analyzed using the Inductive thematic analysis to better understand the teachers’ conceptions of mathematical literacy in comparison with the PISA paradigm (the abstract level) and their perception of the differences between PISA and traditional tasks (concrete level). The analysis revealed four different teachers’ conceptions of mathematical literacy (sorted by descending frequency): 1) knowledge about basic mathematical concepts (main formulas, operations, geometry objects, etc.); 2) correct use of mathematical symbolism; 3) use of mathematics in everyday situations (such as in shops or markets); 4) developing a specific way of thinking. Teachers’ comments about the differences between the different types of tasks highlighted additional differences. PISA tasks were described as both more interesting and complicated, as well as assessing reading ability, while the tasks from the final exam were observed as more formal, solely mathematical tasks. The teachers’ opinion was that PISA-like tasks should be introduced to mathematics practice as an addition to the traditional, solely mathematical tasks. The results reveal broad differences between the underlying logic behind PISA testing and Serbian mathematics teachers’ understanding of mathematical literacy and knowledge assessment. In order to overcome the gap between these conceptions, it is necessary to deconstruct meanings present in everyday teaching practices.
Appears in Collections:MRER, Volume 14, Supplement Issue
MRER, Volume 14, Supplement Issue

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