Original Research

Teacher reflection: The use of visual tools in mathematics classrooms

Jayaluxmi Naidoo
Pythagoras | Vol 33, No 1 | a54 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v33i1.54 | © 2012 Jayaluxmi Naidoo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 September 2011 | Published: 21 August 2012

About the author(s)

Jayaluxmi Naidoo, School of Education, Mathematics and Computer Science Education Cluster, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Research has shown that the use of visual tools in mathematics classrooms is beneficial, but what we do not know is how South African teachers negotiate the use of visual tools (e.g. diagrams, gestures, the use of colour, et cetera) in classrooms. Research was conducted with six ‘master teachers’ to explore the use of visual tools. Master teachers in this study are expert teachers identified by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education. They are experienced teachers with the potential to mentor new teachers. Master teachers were asked to complete a questionnaire, and they were observed and recorded whilst teaching mathematics lessons. Each master teacher was observed at least three times. All the video recordings were analysed, after which each master teacher was interviewed. After each master teacher interview had been analysed, one focus group interview was conducted with learners at each school. The study was undertaken within a qualitative, interpretive paradigm. The study was framed within Schön’s theory of teacher reflection. The findings suggest that each master teacher incorporated the use of visual tools in order to make mathematical concepts easier to understand for the learners. For example, one master teacher used a stick with coloured rubber bands to teach rotation about a point; another master teacher used various colours and lines on an interactive smart board to teach number patterns and a third used hand gestures to demonstrate the direction of the gradient of a line. Interview data suggest that the incorporation of such visual tools came about as a result of teachers’ reflecting in action. These findings are important for advancing teacher and curriculum development.


Master teacher; Visual tools; Reflecting in action; Reflecting on action; Scaffolding


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