A Lesson Based on the Use of Contexts: An Example of Effective Practice in Secondary School Mathematics

Roger Harvey, Robin Averill


The importance of using real-life contexts in teaching mathematics is emphasised in
many policy and curriculum statements. The literature indicates using contexts to
teach mathematics can be difficult and few detailed exemplars exist. This article
describes the use of real-life contexts in one New Zealand Year 11 algebra lesson.
Data included a video recording of one lesson and the teacher’s reflections on the
lesson. Analysis of the lesson revealed the importance for its success of the ways in
which the learning tasks and their contexts were introduced, ongoing referral to the
contexts, consolidation of prior mathematics learning, and teacher questioning. The
lesson described illustrates how meaningful links to real-life contexts can be
developed to promote mathematical understanding, how a balance between
focusing on the mathematics and the context can be achieved, and that these require
careful planning. The lesson example and its analysis indicate that awareness of the
complexity of implementing context-based mathematics learning is important for
those who promote or want to implement context-based mathematics teaching,
including policy makers, teacher educators, and teachers.


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