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DOI 10.1007/s11516-009-0030-1

RESEARCH ARTICLE

through high school teaching activities

process, which is engaged in the course of certain types of mathematics activity.

This article describes the basic meaning, characteristics, and developmental

features of reflectivity in mathematics. It is suggested that reflective ability in

mathematics and its relations with other mathematical abilities helps improve

students long term mathematical and creative capacities. The authors develop a

trial reflective component to high school mathematics education in order to

determine the degree of short-term mathematics improvement measured by

examination success, as well as long-term benefits to the student, thus promoting

mathematics curriculum reform.

demonstration, training

Mathematics Education), 2008, 17(1): 3842

ZHANG Dingqiang ( ),YANG Hong

School of Education, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China

E-mail: zhangdq@nwnu.edu.cn

ZHAO Hongyuan

Wuwei Occupational College, Wuwei 733000, China

542 ZHANG Dingqiang, ZHAO Hongyuan, YANG Hong

1 Introduction

Reflection is the driving force at the very core of mathematical activity

(Freudthal, 1979), arguably forming one of the key components of mathematical

thinking itself (Freudthal, 1994). It is posited therefore that mathematical

activities cannot be carried out successfully without involving serious reflection.

From the authors extensive experience of high school mathematics teaching in

China, an interesting phenomenon was observed. Among students aged between

15 and 18, the reflection underpinning mathematical activity rarely took place,

and students consciousness of reflection in mathematical thinking was low.

Moreover, if students did reflect on mathematics, their strategies and approaches

were relatively limited; and their reflective abilities hard to detect. In this article,

reflective ability refers to the individual psychological characteristics needed

to complete an act of reflection. This phenomenon, observed by the authors, has

had significant impact on the extent to which students gain mathematical

competence and has implications for the development of their ability to innovate.

In this context, the authors started a one-year research project in September 2003

entitled, Fostering Mathematical Reflective Abilities of High School Students.

This small-scale study aimed to explore effective ways to improve high school

students ability to reflect while undertaking mathematical tasks. The authors also

put forward specific suggestions on how this could be done in practice.

2.1 Research targets

The targets chosen for this piece of research were two groups of students from

the same school, both in their first year of high school study. Class A included 60

sample students; Class B numbered 61. These two groups of students were

randomly assigned classes when entering high school, with most students in both

classes coming from rural areas.

Beyond a thorough literature review, research methods applied to the two

groups included observation, questionnaires, interviews and action research. The

research goal, to identify ways to foster high school students mathematical

reflective ability, was reached in non-manipulated classroom settings. Data was

collected from in-class teacher observation and questionnaire feedback, through

student interviews and by reading and analyzing homework. The data was

analyzed using the three-pronged analytical method popular in action research,

and was then sorted so that the qualitative analysis could be supplemented by

quantitative analysis.

Fostering mathematical reflective abilities through high school teaching activities 543

Step 1: Conduct a thorough literature review; observe the student learning process

and distribute questionnaires; identify the nature of reflection and factors that

prevent high school students from developing reflective ability in mathematical

activities; select and decide on a number of methods to help students improve

reflective abilities; build an essential model to be applied in the next stage.

Step 2: Using student questionnaire feedback, reach an understanding of first

year high school students reflective abilities and develop a research plan.

Step 3: Focus on classroom teaching; encourage students to ask questions to

reflect, and recognize the importance and necessity of reflection.

Step 4: Introduce students to reflective techniques and methods in the

classroom; assign homework so that students can experience and apply these

techniques themselves.

Step 5: Reinforce and reintroduce reflective techniques to students in as many

scenarios as possible.

Step 6: Analyze questionnaire feedback; observe student behavior in the

classroom and check reflective task-related homework; find out how students

understand and digest reflection techniques and methods; identify application

problems and solutions.

Step 7: Generalize research results and decide on the best methods to help high

school students improve reflective abilities; obtain feedback on the effectiveness

of these methods and continue to improve on them for widespread use.

3 Modeling

The following model for helping students to improve mathematical reflection

was built on the basis of a pre-research literature review, years of teaching

experiences as well as the use of questionnaires, observation, interviews and

homework analysis (Fig. 1):

Encourage Demonstration

Arouse Imitate

Reflection

Improve Strengthen

Evaluation Training

Fig. 1 Basic model to help students improve their mathematical reflective abilities

544 ZHANG Dingqiang, ZHAO Hongyuan, YANG Hong

reflection. It contains four elements of a teaching exercisefirstly, encouraging

students to ask questions; secondly, teacher demonstration; thirdly, exercise by

the students, and finally, evaluation by students and teacher. This model focuses

on reflection. Reflection is stimulated by the student feeling there is a problem

or difficult aspect involved in the task at hand. Reflection is a highly intellectual

thinking process, involving self-perception, self assessment, and self questioning.

It plays a leading, guiding and monitoring role in carrying out the task, enabling

a decisive mathematical cognition process to be completed accurately and with a

degree of sustainably. It is therefore highly important to introduce reflection into

various aspects of teaching, and reinforce students reflective awareness in all

aspects of the teaching process.

Since reflection is stimulated by the student feeling there is a problem or

difficulty, the first step should be to help the student realize that problems are

essential to the study of mathematics. The natural sense of confusion tends to

generate a tendency towards revolution, a desire to get rid of complexity and

find solutions. This is what the authors mean by jiyi, i.e., encouraging students

to posit questions when studying. The second step is to gradually help the

students to discover the nature of the problem or difficulties they found

themselves in during the first step. At this point, reflection turns from being a

passive to being an active process. The student is helped to re-examine and

assess the effectiveness of mathematical study strategies, thus entering a state of

reflection. Step 1 discussed above has stimulated new question-raising habits in

the student and created the need for reflection, but still the student lacks real

reflection techniques and experiences major obstacles to learning at this stage.

Step 3 involves teacher demonstration designed to solve the mathematical

problem in a reflective way. The class is demonstrated to by the teacher in such a

way as to simulate the internal thinking mechanism. This step exposes the

subjects to techniques of reflection. By this method, the student gains first hand

experience and knowledge of reflection. Further exercises are then needed to

reinforce the experiences and practice techniques aiming at proficiency, and

moreover, to form an in-built reflective ability. During the exercises, evaluation

at all times is necessary, by which the students reflective ability are reinforced,

gradually being strengthened and improved. Reflection is indispensible at all the

stages discussed in this chapter (the raising of questions, demonstration, practice

and evaluation), therefore, reflection itself is a decisive factor in the attempt to

enable students to build their reflective abilities in mathematics.

The process of fostering the construction of students reflective abilities is an

upwards spiral, with one step following another in the sequence described. The

process starts from encouraging question-raising and proceeds in a clockwise

fashion. It can also start from demonstration or exercises, moving in a clockwise

Fostering mathematical reflective abilities through high school teaching activities 545

previous cycle, and should proceed with identifiable improvement (in reflective

ability) being noticeable at each step.

The reflection construction model put forward in the previous section was

applied in the practice of high school mathematics teaching over the course of

one school year. While applying this model, mistakes occurring in students

homework were categorized and analyzed. The students were also asked to go

over their reflective techniques and methods learned using playback methods.

They also kept diaries and recorded their relevant learning activities. The

students are asked to use a manual on Polyas How to solve it to answer real

mathematical questions and to consider how reflection should be exercised in

problem-solving. The detailed process of application is as follows:

and behavior among students

difficult for high school students. If not driven by persistent interest and the

desire to become a responsible autonomous individual (by solving the problems

one encounters in life), mathematical conundrums cannot easily be overcome,

despite students discovering the existence of such problems. They may easily

give up mathematics study at this stage. Therefore, to foster reflective ability

among students, the primary task is to encourage curiosity and motivate a

willingness to study. As far as the authors are concerned, the first and foremost

goal of mathematics study for Chinese high school students is to pass the

university entrance exam and continue with higher education at university. To be

accepted by a good university requires a high score in mathematics in the college

entrance examinations and in many cases it is not easy to enhance students

mathematics score quickly within a short period of time. With this in mind, it is

crucially important to stress and emphasize the motives for mathematics study,

because these are established by students themselves. This is a powerful message

to high school students and acts as a flag, symbol and measurement of success.

To conclude, high school mathematics teachers should keep students motivated,

helping them to combine long-term objectives (entering university) and

short-term goals (enhancing their scores in mathematics exams). The students

should also learn to set realistic goals for their mathematics score, be internally

motivated and consequently, enhance their reflective awareness in the course of

546 ZHANG Dingqiang, ZHAO Hongyuan, YANG Hong

behavior, it is hard to see how students and teachers reflect on the mathematics

tasks. However, classroom teaching and learning allows sufficient exposure of

the thinking process of teachers and students. In our research, we asked both

teachers and students to play the role of demonstrators and work in turn as key

and supporting demonstrators.

Teacher demonstration methods included:

learning process, in order to help student to reflect on their own sense of

involvement;

b. Reflecting on the implementation of the teaching plans for each teaching

unit, in order to help students reflect on their study plans;

c. Deliberately leaving time for students to ask questions, in order to explain to

them the thinking process behind the task, thus demonstrating how to reflect;

d. Demonstrating by asking students to reflect on the process after they

successfully solved a question or categorizing and analyzing errors and mistakes

discovered in homework;

e. Designing and conducting special reflection courses using demonstration as

a key teaching method;

f. Applying indicative phrases from Polyas Problem-solving Table tips to the

teaching of mathematics.

solution to a problem was found and by way of what thinking processes;

b. Discussion and experience sharing;

c. Sharing with others ones reflection homework;

d. Sharing ones reflection notes with others.

satisfactory. Students were able to accumulate reflective knowledge and

experience through simulations and exchange of ideas. They learnt how to reflect

and came to understand the benefits of reflection to their study.

Fostering mathematical reflective abilities through high school teaching activities 547

reflective abilities. Therefore, homework with a reflective component should be

assigned, to encourage the student to monitor thinking processes by using

reflection, adjust their channels of reflection and generally apply techniques

learnt in class. Furthermore, the teacher should give students enough time to

practice their skills, compare the results of different skills and aim for proficiency

in using reflection for mathematics. In order to do so, the authors arranged for

reflection practice to take place both in and out of the classroom teaching settings.

The specific indicators were:

monitoring and adjusting their ways of thinking;

b. To give students the opportunity to apply indicative phrases from Polyas

Problem-solving Table in class, therefore, monitoring and adjusting their way of

thinking;

c. To assign tasks at the proper level of difficulty as homework so as to enable

students to practice reflection;

d. To encourage students to monitor and adjust their own homework by

applying indicative phrases in the Polyas Problem-solving Table and to create

their own indicative phrases;

e. To encourage students to reflect after completion of phases of study and

encourage timely reviews and summarize experiences.

the students is through the assignment of homework. In more detail, this means:

formulas and theorems, and then analyzing and enhancing their understanding of

these concepts. For example, reflective homework after studying the concept of

angles wasQ: Please discuss and compare definitions of positive angle,

negative angle, acute angle, obtuse angle, right angle, angles have same terminal

side and quadrant angle. After the trigonometric functions of these angles were

studied, students were asked to think of the connection and difference between

trigonometric functions of any angle and the trigonometric functions of an acute

angle; when students learnt the sum and difference formulas for sine, cosine and

tangent function, they were asked to find out the relation between trigonometric

functions and induction formulas, so that they could gain an understanding of the

inner relations among these concepts through reflection.

548 ZHANG Dingqiang, ZHAO Hongyuan, YANG Hong

asked to mimic the reflective process. For example, by using Polyas

Problem-solving Table to solve mathematical questions and reflect on the

problem-solving process. The teacher first demonstrated how to use the table,

then assigned homework to exercise the technique. By doing so, the students

learnt step by step how to use the indicative phrases in the Polyas

Problem-solving Table to solve and reflect on the problem, thus gaining a

stronger result from the learning experience.

Results of pedagogic experiments show that students are more motivated and

active in learning in cases where they know the outcomes of what they already

learnt than when the outcomes are kept from them, and that the results of

learning are far better in the in the former case than in the latter. It is therefore

crucial to evaluate the outcome of learning in a timely manner. Evaluation, if

carried out properly, has an essential part to play in improving students reflective

abilities. Authentic assessment is a collection of evaluation methods targeted at

students learning behavior, outcomes, motivation and attitude. These methods

must be consistent with the teaching objectives and methods applied in the

classroom. For an open and fair authentic assessment, data must be collected

from multiple channels, including classroom, homework and examinations. The

data can be collected by sending out questionnaires, observation and record

taking, reading and scoring students homework and reflection diaries,

workshops and discussions, etc. (Paris and Ayres, 2001)

Mathematical questions are by nature abstract, and the more complex might

easily scare the student off from going into the topic with any degree of depth.

Some, especially those who have learning difficulties or who are less outgoing in

personality, tend not to actively take part in classroom teaching and learning

activities. Therefore, teachers should pay more attention to these students,

encouraging and affirming their participation wherever possible. The student

should also be asked to reflect on the benefit and losses attributed to participation

and non-participation so that they understand the purpose and furthermore,

enhance their learning confidence.

b. Student thinking process during classroom teaching

Students are the key engines of the classroom learning process, and must be

given space and time to think on their own. Since each student is different in

Fostering mathematical reflective abilities through high school teaching activities 549

are likely to think differently and come up with a spectrum of interesting

solutions. In view of limitations on time and fixed goals of teaching of each

teaching unit, teachers necessarily pay more attention to mainstream solutions

or solutions suggested by good or above average students, or even, simply the

solutions given by teachers themselves. Many solutions that are not common

tend to be ignored. To change this situation, teachers should give attention to

both mainstream and non-mainstream ideas. For mainstream ones, teachers

should evaluate and extract the rational parts of these ways of thinking as well as

encouraging students to reflect on their thinking processes. For non-mainstream

ideas, the teachers should encourage the student to keep working on his/her

original idea, or ask the student to write it down during reflective homework. By

reading this homework, the teacher will be able to help the student to reflect

further on the suggestion. One other approach is that students can share and

discuss ideas they came up with individually with the rest of the class.

Example question: What is the value of the following equation? (Use

trigonometric sum and difference formulas)

1 + tan15

.

1 tan15

Ask the student to find a solution to the above question. The common

mainstream method is:

1 + tan15 1 + tan (45 30 )

= .

1 tan15 1 tan (45 30 )

Most students tried to solve this question by way of the above process mainly

because they had just been introduced to the sum and difference formulas for

tangent function and their thinking was limited to this knowledge that they had

just been exposed to. In this way, the question was answered correctly, but in a

complicated way. However, there is a more direct and easy way to answer this

question: by changing 1 in the question into tan 45, which is the expansion of

the formula tan (45 + 15). How to help the student to find this easy solution?

Indicative phrases in Polyas Problem-solving Table could be used to help. The

teachers can ask students questions like: Can you find the answer straight away

from the question? What can you get out of the answer of this question? Most

students will at the stage understand the easy and direct problem-solving method,

and realize that the formulae learnt can be used in different ways. Enlightened by

this problem-solving technique, the students quickly checked their thinking

process and compared the two methods, one complicated and one direct. The

teacher further induced the students to think by asking, Which is the better

550 ZHANG Dingqiang, ZHAO Hongyuan, YANG Hong

solution? Is the mainstream solution correct? Can you simplify it? To reinforce

what has been achieved in the classroom in building reflective abilities, the

students were asked to check their homework and find out if there were easier

ways or different ways to come to the same conclusion.

For instance, one student found out that the following formulae could be used

in reverse to solve problems:

sin() cos + cos() sin;

sin(+) cos + sin(+) sin.

This experience helped students to learn the benefits of reflection, thus

enhancing their voluntary reflective abilities.

c. Lecture outcomes

With more than sixty students over different mathematical levels in each high

school class, interest in mathematics and motives of learning is bound to differ

considerably. It is very important for a teacher to evaluate the level of acceptance

of his/her lecturing style and correct problems existing in the listening process.

The outcomes of listening are reflected in how students take on knowledge being

taught at class, how they finish their homework, etc. Based on this information,

the teacher can give positive or negative comments on students listening

outcomes, stimulating students reflection on their performance in the classroom,

and ultimately, enhancing the effectiveness of the teacher-led lecturing aspect of

learning.

teacher and students. Students personalities can be seen clearly through

homework. The communication through homework happens almost everyday

between teacher and students. Traditionally, homework is assigned to help

students reinforce the knowledge they learnt at school during the day. The

teachers also collect information on how the students accept the knowledge for

the day. The traditional function of homework stresses the students acquirement

of knowledge; with signals sent out by homework about students thinking ability,

their learning attitude and emotional development were often neglected. In view

of this, teachers should evaluate students homework from the cognition and

common sense aspects and make full use of information hidden within students

homework.

a. How students solve problems

Exercises in students note books closely relate to what students are taught by

textbooks. The aim of exercises is to help students better understand received

Fostering mathematical reflective abilities through high school teaching activities 551

students grasp knowledge and their methods of thinking when trying to find

answers to the questions in front of them. For example: prove sufficient and

necessary condition for sin > 0 and cos < 0. The textbook example only proved

its sufficiency, but did not prove its necessity. Student A carried out the proof using

the trigonometric function. The reasoning was: Let P (x, y) be a point on the

terminal side of angle and r = x 2 + y 2 , then falls in the second quartrant, and

x<0 sin=y/r > 0 sin> 0

, therefore, , so: .

y>0 cos=x/r < 0 cos< 0

This is a clear and sophisticated way to solve the question, and also a good

solution. The teacher therefore marked good idea at the students notebook and

ask him to show the others the way he had solved the question, so that others

could also be encouraged to innovate.

While marking homework, the teacher should pay attention to errors and

mistakes, especially less common mistakes. The teacher should make use of

Polyas Problem-solving Table to encourage students to think more extensively

and broadly and to find related questions to the ones they are solving. In this

way, students self-monitoring abilities are expected to improve significantly.

For instance, the teacher may write down questions while marking a students

homework in order to stimulate reflection: You didnt remember the formula

correctly, what should you do if this happens? The computing of a value is

wrong, why? How to improve? Please read the question carefully, can you

verify your conclusion? Can you prove you are right at each step of your

reasoning?

b. Student learning attitudes

The way a student finishes his/her homework can reveal a students change of

attitude towards learning. Whether the handwriting is tidy, whether the student is

careful to avoid minor errors, and the overall quality of the piece of homework

all send useful information to the teacher about subtle changes happening to the

students attitude. If the teacher carefully picks up on signals in the students

homework, s/he can help the student to reflect by giving out reminder notes.

Writing notes on a students homework is also good approach to remonstrate

with a student who has misbehaved in class. It is always better to remind the

student of such misbehavior afterwards than it is to point it out in the classroom

in front of fellow students, taking time and risking upsetting the student.

Example notes on students homework are: Please concentrate in class; Ive

noticed an improvement in your study these days, keep it up; Your handwriting is

not very tidy, please improve; Concentrate on your study and Ill support you;

552 ZHANG Dingqiang, ZHAO Hongyuan, YANG Hong

Ask yourself a question: what is your study goal? I noticed you sometimes look

sleepy in the classroom, please take a good rest; I notice you are low these days,

try to find out why; or try harder, there is light at the end of the tunnel! These

notes on students homework help students feel that the teacher is concerned

about their individual problems and supports them, thus they are more willing to

accept the teachers advice and reflect on their shortcomings and potentially

abandon bad habits.

c. Evaluation through examination scores

In China, performance in the learning process is regularly and fairly

evaluated by class teachers. The evaluation results are mostly acceptable to the

students. However, the Chinese system has tended to use examination as the

supreme judge of a students school performance. Students therefore often

overestimate the significance of examination scores over general classroom

learning. Often a student fails to objectively evaluate his/her abilities beyond

the scores obtained. If a student does not perform well, s/he is likely to lose

confidence in further study. In the framework of this research project, the

authors conducted four end-of-chapter tests, one mid-term and one end-of-term

exam. The results of students self-evaluation of their performance show that 80

percent did not see their performance during the investigation period positively;

23 percent thought their low score in the exams was due to low intelligence.

Such self-evaluation demonstrates a lack of confidence and may well affect

students motivation in carry on studying. In view of this situation, an objective

and properly phrased remark by the teacher becomes crucially important. The

teacher should compare the student with his/her classmates, but also emphasize

the students changes/improvements over time, so as to help the student realize

and reflect on his/her progress, becoming more confident in future learning

endeavors.

5 Analysis of data

As part of the research, the authors analyzed the test results of Class A and Class

B (see Table 1 below):

XS1 XS2 XS3 XS4 XS5 XS6

Class A 105 12.5 43.81 12.7 34.6 12.7 29.4 16.02 32 12.80 60.3 22.91

Class B 104 11.5 33.7 11.65 29.7 11.65 29.3 12.59 35.3 4.72 64.7 20.6

XS1: Result of high school entrance exam mathematics test (full score 150)

XS2: Result of numerical reasoning test scores (full score 100)

Fostering mathematical reflective abilities through high school teaching activities 553

XS4: Result of 1st semester term end examination (full score 100)

XS5: Result of 2nd semester mid-term examination (full score 100)

XS6: Result of 2nd semester term end examination (full score 100)

Table 1 shows that Class Bs average score is lower than Class A at the

beginning of the trial. The class caught up gradually and overtook Class A. Class

Bs average score rose slowly but underwent no significant change. Therefore, in

the authors opinion, exam performance was not significantly improved through

the fostering of reflective abilities in mathematics.

The authors distributed a questionnaire about reflection in mathematics

learning to Class B in June 2004. All 60 questionnaires were returned and

analyzed (see Table 2 below):

Reflect when asked Occasionally Reflect voluntarily Reflect very often

% 44.4 25.9 11.1 18.6

voluntarily or even frequently during the academic year; 44.4 percent

reflected when prompted, and a further 25.9 percent reflected only

occasionally. This result showed dramatic improvement compared with the

figures from the questionnaire sent out at the beginning of the research

project, where almost 92 percent did not know the reasons for reflection or

how to reflect. Table 2 tells us that 55.6 percent students were now conscious

about reflection in their learning, and that some were able to reflect without

prompting. What about the rest who did not reflect? What prevented them

from doing so?

Table 3 shows that 40.7 percent of those who did not reflect lacked reflection

techniques. The reason might be because the teachers demonstration was less

effective to address student needs. 19.7 percent of students did not reflect

because they did not have time, this figure being much lower than those from

interview and reflection homework. Some students argued the opposite way,

time was not a question, reflection can be done at any time if you are willing to

do so. In Table 3, there were still 42.6 percent who attributed lack of reflection

to low motivation. Why was this still the case?

Time constraints Techniques required Motivation Other

% 19.7 40.7 42.6 7.4

554 ZHANG Dingqiang, ZHAO Hongyuan, YANG Hong

From Table 4 we see that only 18.5 percent of students reflected because they

found the subject matter interesting; 48.1 percent did so because they wanted to

go to a good university and took this as the main motive for reflective learning.

(In explanation, to enter a good university, a high mathematics score is a must,

therefore, if a students score in mathematics is low or decreases, s/he will

become less motivated to learn, consequently losing their desire to reflect on the

mathematical skills being learnt.) The research project then put forward a further

question: What do you think of your performance in mathematics after the

introduction of reflective learning? (see Table 5 below):

Interest Aspiration To enter a good university To improve intelligence Other

% 18.5 16.7 48.1 11.1 5.6

Improved Decreased The same Do not know

% 27.8 0 9.2 63

Table 5 shows that 37 percent believe that their mathematics score improved

or stayed at a stable level. No student thought his/her score went gone down

after they conducted reflection in mathematics learning. However, there were

still 63 percent who did not know how their performance changed through

reflection. Why is that? The authors discovered that this might because of the

timing of this questionnaire, since when the students were asked this question,

the end-of-term exam has not yet been taken, and students were not sure of the

change in their performance. Besides, through interview with students, the

authors noticed that some students had the feeling that they made progress in

learning mathematics, but their score in exams did not improve remarkably.

What did the students think of the role of reflection in their mathematics

learning? (See Table 6)

Table 6 What do students think of the role of reflection in their mathematics learning?

Not necessary Not essential Fairly important Very important

% 0 9.2 38.9 51.9

Table 6 shows that only 9.2 percent thought reflection was only optional to

study, but 90.8 percent believed reflection was fairly or very important; more

than half, 51.9 percent, thought of reflection as very important. Why do students

take reflection so seriously? (see Table 7 below):

Fostering mathematical reflective abilities through high school teaching activities 555

Not good for mathematics Neither good nor bad Some benefits Great benefits

learning

% 0 3.7 46.3 50

Table 7 shows that 96.3 percent of student gained benefits from reflection,

but what were these benefits? This question is an open-ended one. Students

benefited in various ways because they reflected at different levels and using

highly different methods. The authors summarized some of the answers

below:

opinion freely. It gives me the chance to come up with some original ideas.

b. Reflection helps me sort through what I learnt. Through reflection, I can

link new knowledge with old knowledge, which helps my understanding.

c. Reflection changed the way I think. I have become more active in thinking

and doing. I have learnt and am now more motivated.

d. Reflection helps to train my thinking ability. I am able to think quicker and

more flexibly, and in particular, I can think about a topic more broadly than

before.

e. Reflection helps to change my stereotypes about mathematics. I used to

think mathematics was very abstract and unattractive. Through reflection, I

have started to find it interesting and I am more confident in doing it the right

way.

f. Reflection helps me to be persistent in my study, and ensures that I dont

give up easily. I am more confident and courageous at solving difficult questions.

g. Reflection helps us each find the joy of study as well as the best study

method for ourselves individually. I have found through reflection that parts of

knowledge are supplementary to each other.

h. Reflection helps me to think more carefully, cautiously, completely and

accurately. I learnt how to think and have got into the habit of reviewing and

improving my work after finishing the draft answers. I ask more questions, my

mathematics score improved, and I have gained a deeper knowledge of

mathematics.

i. Reflection is not only helpful in the study of mathematics, it also helps in

many other aspects: Polyas Problem-solving Table is useful for mathematical

questions as well as for chemistry and physics. Reflection helps me realize that I

should reflect for everything I do. Also, reflection helps me to see a problem

from a broader and bigger perspective.

556 ZHANG Dingqiang, ZHAO Hongyuan, YANG Hong

6 Conclusion

To conclude, more than 90 percent of students benefited from reflection and

came to believe that reflection was indispensible in learning. One student wrote

in his reflection diary: Why is reflection so important? Because high school

mathematics is more abstract, more difficult than before. If I dont reflect, I

cannot use my knowledge to solve problems freely. However, reflection also has

its downsideit does not suit all students, with some developing negative

feelings towards the additional task of reflection. In more detail, firstly reflection

causes a psychological burden. Reflection is after all a painful action. Problems

discovered through reflection must then be solved, bad habits must be diminished,

which requires courage and crossing mental barriers to realize. In this research

project, there was one case of a student who was not very good at mathematics,

and of average intelligence. Reflection did not help him to improve his score but

instead caused him to develop a negative self-evaluation which consisted of him

feeling less intelligent and less capable than before. It is not difficult to imagine

that the more students reflect, the more problems they think of, and consequently

the less confident they feel. Secondly, reflection takes time that could have been

used more efficiently elsewhere. Students found the reflection homework an

extra burden for them. The time spend on developing reflective abilities could

have been used on real mathematics questions instead.

In a word, so as to foster reflective ability in mathematics, teaching is an

effective way of changing learning habits, enhancing motivation and

improving self-awareness, but it is not effective at improving examination

scores.

Glossary

acute angle quadrant angle

authentic assessment right angle

concept terminal side

formula theorem

negative angle trigonometric function

obtuse angle trigonometric function sum and difference

positive angle formulas

References

Freudthal H (1979). How does reflective thinking develop? Proc.confernce IGPME Warwick

Fostering mathematical reflective abilities through high school teaching activities 557

Paris S G, Ayres L R (2001). Foster Reflection . Beijing Light Industry Press

(Yuan K trans., original work published in 1995)

Polya G (1982). How to Solve It. Beijing : Science Press (Yan

Y F trans.)

Wu K N (2005). Surviving in an imaginary world . Journal of Higher

Education , (9): 3239

Zhang D Q , Zhao H Y (2005). On reflection ability in mathematics .

Curriculum, Teaching Material and Method , (3): 4954

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