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The effect of language, gender and age in NAPLAN numeracy data
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posted on 15.02.2017by Wilson, Timothy Cameron
This Year Level and gender based research study investigated the relationship between students ability to answer reduced language dependency mathematical questions with their overall numeracy level as measured by national testing. Rather than just studying students' ability to better answer reduced language dependency questions, it investigates whether a student's success at reduced language mathematical questions translates into better overall numeracy scores. The tools used to study this relationship was a quantitative study of specifically chosen, reduced language dependency, National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) numeracy test questions and Australian benchmark numeracy scores. The derived numeracy score for each student in the sample was compared to their ability to answer the reduced language dependency questions
within the same test paper. This comparison was made for 1106 students over all four Year Levels of NAPLAN testing. Results were obtained for the whole sample, as well as individually by gender and by Year Level. It was found that students have better numeracy scores, at times of up to almost two years advancement, compared with their peers if they were able to correctly answer the reduced language dependency questions. For the sample, a mean numeracy benchmark score of 560.77 was obtained by students who could answer one or more reduced language dependency questions correctly, and of 545.93 for those who were incorrect on at least one of the questions. This difference in means was found to be statistically significant. This phenomenon was clearly apparent in the overall findings, but was most pronounced at the Year 3 level test, and was more pronounced for female students. The difference in mean numeracy benchmark scores appeared to be reduced as students became more mature and was minimised at Year 9 level. The outcomes of this study suggest that further investigations should be undertaken to determine whether young students' cognitive development is ready to connect mathematical tools with contrived situational applications, and whether classroom time may be better spent teaching what are often referred to as 'the basics' during the lower to late primary school years. As students mature during high school, they appear to be better able to decode numeracy test language and able to understand contextualised mathematical life skills required by citizens of the 21st Century.