Promoting critical thinking skills in foundation phase mathematics.
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The foundation phase in South Africa is seen as the early years of education, where key skills are established and begin to develop. With this perspective in mind, this study proposed to understand the promotion of critical thinking skills in foundation phase mathematics. The site of the study was a public primary school in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal, and three foundation phase mathematics teachers were selected using convenience and purposive sampling, from grade one, two and three respectively. The study was conceptualised within an interpretive paradigm, applying qualitative research through narrative inquiry. The study aimed to elicit data from participants by using reflective journaling to express their experiences in relation to promotion of critical thinking skills within their mathematics lessons. The data generated from the reflective journals, were analysed using Thematic-Narrative Analysis. The narrative reflections analysis was guided by the key objectives of the study, to explore and understand, the current situation of promoting critical thinking skills in foundation phase mathematics, how this promotion is achieved and why it is enacted in the ways that it is. Three themes were derived, revealing that teachers are aware of critical thinking skills as a prerequisite of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement and perceive these skills as an asset for learners. However, teachers integrate critical thinking skills, as a secondary component in lessons due to limited timeframes, vast amounts of curriculum and lack of adequate teaching training. Additionally, it was found that despite these challenges, teachers are using multifaceted teaching approaches and learning techniques to promote critical thinking skills and often take on the role of facilitator to aid this promotion, in their foundation phase mathematics lessons. Furthermore, findings showed that teachers understand that there are many long-term benefits attached to the promotion of critical thinking skills, such as creating individuals who are prone to inclusive thinking, skilled communicators, independent thinkers, providing learners with an overall improved quality of life. Hence the study finds that the promotion of critical thinking skills is underway within the foundation phase mathematics lessons. However, to counteract teacher challenges, the study recommends that teachers, receive regular training on critical thinking development to ensure the promotion of critical thinking skills are integrated efficiently into lessons. Timeframes allocated to mathematics subject curriculum, should be reviewed, taking into account teachers’ perspectives and learner needs, with consideration for critical thinking development in curriculum teaching and learning. Further, assessment regimes need re- evaluation, to differ assessment according to learner capabilities.