Exploring the teaching of critical thinking skills to learners to promote mathematical literacy: a case of five schools in the Zaka District of Zimbabwe.
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The present study explored the teaching of critical thinking skills to young learners in the 3-8-year age bracket during the teaching of mathematics teaching to enhance mathematical literacy in Zimbabwe. The impetus that led to this exploration was that mathematical literacy is not a standalone subject in Zimbabwe, but learners are expected to acquire critical thinking skills through the teaching of other subjects including mathematics. It was therefore important to the researcher to explore the teaching of critical thinking skills to young learners during mathematics teaching in the context of five primary schools conveniently sampled in Zaka District of Zimbabwe. The research study focused on finding out factors that are related to the development of critical thinking skills in young learners during the teaching of mathematics, how teachers facilitate the development of critical thinking skills in young learners during mathematics teaching and why there is a need to teach critical thinking skills to young learners during mathematics teaching. This study used a case study design embedded in qualitative approaches. Interviews, observations and document analysis in form of video records were used to generate data. Twenty-five teachers and all learners they teach (approximately 1500) participated in the study. It was established in the research study that culture was the major factor that negatively influenced the teaching of critical thinking skills to young learners. Some of the factors drawn from the study are chronological age, mental age, adult influence, socio-economic status of parents, emotional and intellectual support to the learner, and reinforcement of schoolwork, gender and age of the child. The research study also established that provision of teaching resources in terms of technological tools, learner activities; teacher activities and methodology in teaching were the basis for facilitating the development of critical thinking skills so as to promote mathematical literacy in learners. The research study further revealed that there was a need to teach critical thinking skills to enhance the following attributes in young learners: problem-solving, mental agility, lifelong learning, mathematical literacy, defining solutions to problems, and understanding of concepts, distinguishing by associating what they are learning to what they already know and independent thinking. Recommendations for future approaches to facilitate the development of critical thinking skills to learners in the 3-8-year age range to promote mathematical literacy were made in the context of research findings from primary schools in Zaka District of Zimbabwe.