Constructivism in learning mathematics: Students' and teacher's difficulties

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (M. Ed.)


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


The purpose of my study was to implement mathematical tasks based on the learning theory Constructivism and to explore the difficulties of class five students, and my own difficulties as a teacher when using this learning theory. For this purpose, I designed tasks on the basis of my assessment of students' needs and their prior knowledge about the particular mathematical topic being taught. I myself taught class five and personally developed lessons based on constructivism. Therefore, my teaching and interviews allowed me to have a close association with my sample of four students and to get a deeper understanding of the students as well as my own difficulties. In order to gain in-depth information regarding students' difficulties in learning mathematical concepts, I interviewed the students using open-ended questions. The questions were designed on the basis of students' difficulties identified through my reflections and through discussions with my supervisor. The analysis of students' documents (homework and classwork) and interviews with the mathematics teacher, who observed my teaching, provided me with the necessary data required to answer my research questions. The major findings regarding the nature of the tasks which provided the best learning opportunities to the students included: use of concrete materials, problem solving/individual work, presentation of students' work, and a friendly atmosphere in the class. Students' difficulties included problems in representing their derived formulas in symbolic form, calculating the area of a rectangle and triangle was challenging for the students when measurements of length and breadth were two digit numbers, misinterpreting local language created difficulties in understanding mathematical concepts like length, breadth and height. The difficulties I felt as a teacher included selecting appropriate words for proper instructions according to the students level of understanding, maintaining discipline in a class of 40 students, using appropriate resources and so on. Conclusions made on the basis of my findings are as follows. Lack of students prior knowledge is a strong obstacle for students when they are involved in construction of further knowledge by themselves. A friendly but well disciplined class plays a key role in developing students' interest, curiosity and enthusiasm in learning. Unfavourable physical conditions hinder students' involvement in their construction of knowledge. Teacher's lack of skill in giving appropriate instructions and selection of resources becomes a strong obstacle in students construction of their own knowledge.

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