Modern teachers address various teaching practices to enhance mathematics education, and cooperative learning is one of them. This approach promotes collaboration between students and their intellectual efforts to complete different math tasks and pursue their academic goals. In this paper, a position on collaborative teaching will be developed in regards to the existing benefits and shortages of this experience. The discussion of its main characteristics, the opinions of researchers, and types of collaborative learning will be offered to prove the importance and effectiveness of the method in mathematics. Despite complex tasks and the necessity to apply various skills and knowledge, mathematics remains a queen of sciences, and the choice of an appropriate teaching technique, like cooperative learning, results in advanced academic performance. Students are able to work together on tasks, support each other, and cooperate, avoiding the challenges of individual assignments. Information exchange, personal observations, and common discussions help young people accept and understand mathematics. Students not only learn the material and introduce their vision but also share feedback and correct each other to come to the same solution. Thus, cooperative learning is an effective practice for teaching math in classrooms to raise students’ interest, improve attitudes, and increase interaction.
Modern students apply a variety of strategies to encourage students to achieve positive results, learn the material, and use their skills in the most appropriate ways. Learning and teaching mathematics is never simple: on the one hand, predicted calculations, theories, and numbers facilitate different procedures, and, on the other hand, the complexity of tasks challenges many people. Therefore, an educator has to assess students and create a solid database in order to define how to work with young people. Cooperative learning is a teaching method that is usually centered on students and their interaction in and outside a classroom to understand and discuss difficult concepts (Nasutiona & Surya, 2017). Due to the existing benefits and shortages of cooperative learning, teachers develop their own opinions about the offered approach. In this paper, an opinion to implement collaborative learning into the math classroom will be introduced and promoted, relying on the experiences of scholars and systematic reviews.
Cooperative Learning Characteristics
Mathematics professors need to demonstrate their best qualities in presenting new material and assessing students’ knowledge. In many sources, this subject is identified as “the queen of all sciences,” thus, much attention should be paid to its content, problem-solving techniques, and data exchange (Aguanta & Tan, 2018). The idea to use cooperative learning is not new in the chosen field, and the characteristics of this method have to be properly identified and explained. One of the distinctive features of cooperative learning is the necessity to divide students into small groups and focus on advancement, not on goals set by a teacher (Alzahrani, 2017). Students begin working together on different academic tasks and help each other learn, memorize new information, and contribute to practice.
In addition to a limited number of people and offered activities, cooperative learning is characterized by the promotion of pro-social behavior. It means that such concepts as solidarity, friendship, and support are properly explained and applied (Nasutiona & Surya, 2017). Positive thoughts are necessary for students who study mathematics to share available material and offer emotional support. Although independent achievements matter in the subject, interdependence is highly appreciated as another crucial aspect of cooperative learning. Students may gather in groups in advance to read, prepare for class discussion, and answer each other’s questions (Aguanta & Tan, 2018). Therefore, continuous student interactions, as a part of cooperative learning, cannot be ignored because students need each other to complete their tasks and find answers.
Finally, despite the existing connection between young people in their classrooms, mathematics is a science where individual accountability and responsibilities are required. Teachers do not need to demonstrate some special skills to prepare students for collaborative learning because students are those who manage this process and determine their tasks. At the same time, if a teacher is interested in supporting relationships with students during this practice, he or she may add some personal experience to discussions (Alzahrani, 2017). However, in most cases, it is expected to give students opportunities to strive for personal excellence and take responsibilities as individual mathematicians.
Pros of Cooperative Learning in Mathematics
One of the evident advantages of cooperative learning in the math classroom is the promotion of peer learning. Even if it is not always easy to comprehend this science, complete calculations, and apply theoretical knowledge in practice, cooperation reduces anxiety and uncertainty (Aguanta & Tan, 2018). For example, if a quiz becomes a part of collaborative learning, students do not suffer from overloading but get enough time to think about each question and process information (Aguanta & Tan, 2018). The less attention is paid to unnecessary nerves and panic, the more chances to give correct answers are observed. Therefore, increased performance and improved quality of learning are associated with cooperative learning.
Another pro is related to the development of communication skills from a young age. Although some students are shy to talk to others about common topics due to their poor background knowledge or other problems, they believe that communication and corrections in mathematics are a positive influence (Alzahrani, 2017). If even recommendations and the discussion of mistakes prove the differences in knowledge, students can use this practice to motivate themselves and discover new aspects of learning in the future. That is why, along with communication, motivation is a benefit that strengthens the position of accepting cooperative learning for math classes.
One more reason to apply this teaching practice in mathematics education is the possibility to provide formal and informal feedback on the work done and construct own knowledge about a topic. In mathematics, there are many complex themes that can be successfully covered by a teacher. However, if there is no cooperative learning, students cannot observe how the offered theories are applied in practice. They lack the experience to build their understanding of a topic. According to Aguanta and Tan (2018), every person is in need of enough knowledge of mathematics to survive. If cooperative learning enlarges students’ awareness, its usage is explicated and accepted.
Cons of Cooperative Learning in Mathematics
Cooperative learning in math classrooms is usually treated as a valuable teaching technique with the help of which it is possible to unite students, enhance support, and exchange knowledge. Still, certain shortages may be observed in any practice, and cooperative learning becomes a problem if it is poorly managed and explained. The effectiveness of the chosen practice depends on different factors, and such aspects as the individual’s speed of learning, personal preferences, and temperament types should be recognized while studying mathematics.
When people have to work in groups, it is expected from them to share common skills, approaches to completing tasks, and speed of work. However, not all students are ready to follow the same style and tempo. Many researchers believe that young people are able to strive for their personal excellence relying on their knowledge and skills (as cited in Aguanta & Tan, 2018). However, they learn at different speeds, and collaborative learning is challenged if one student does work quickly and another student cannot catch up with the group.
Low learning outcomes in mathematics are predetermined by students’ interests and preferences. Cooperative learning means offering the same material to a number of students within a certain period of time. Some students find the material interesting, while others share less positive attitudes toward information (Aguanta & Tan, 2018). As a result, one child may stop learning due to the experienced discomfort, distraction, and poor understanding, which leads to lagging behind the group. Cooperative learning loses its characteristics and does not influence students in a necessary way. As such, this teaching technique provokes more new challenges and interpersonal problems being revealed in a classroom.
Finally, the shortage of cooperative learning lies in the presence of different personality types. Some students may be introverts by their nature, behave in a constrained manner, and focus on their inner thoughts and math knowledge (Sari et al., 2019). It is difficult for them to work in groups and share their ideas with others. At the same time, extroverts are talkative, sociable, and active participants who favor cooperative learning. Sari et al. (2019) prove that teachers continue using this teaching method in math classrooms because, despite the existing differences in their behaviors and temperaments, students are able to resolve problems and plan their actions. Social loafing is hard to avoid in groups, but this challenge can be elaborated with time.
Types of Cooperative Learning in Classrooms
Today, cooperative learning gains different forms and types, depending on students’ needs, teachers’ resources, funding, and personal traits. Still, according to Sari et al. (2019), all students must have equal access to mathematics subjects as a part of quality education to develop problem-solving and communication and think logically and systematically. Therefore, it is reasonable to offer several options to implement cooperative learning in a math classroom. There are many formal (a clear structure and tasks) and informal (unstructured and short-term activities) types. Teachers observe students and define what kind of work is the most appropriate for young people at the moment.
The chosen type of cooperative learning should serve learning groups. Modern educators like to promote different strategies to distract students and make them apply their knowledge in different situations. For example, tea parties or carousels focus on learning through entertaining. Jigsaw techniques make homework more interesting and support a competitive advantage. Think Pair Share is when students are involved in interaction and share ideas before solutions during communication (Nasutiona & Surya, 2017). The Rally Coach strategy attracts much attention because of the possibility of switching roles, proofread someone’s work, and make correct decisions (Sari et al., 2019). All these types have their certain pros and cons, but all of them are good cooperative learning strategies for mathematical learners.
Cooperative learning is a teaching method that can be applied in modern math classrooms to improve students’ academic performance and raise their interest in the subject. Some students find it interesting and effective to work in groups and communicate in order to find a solution and complete a task. Sometimes, students need more time to get prepared for interaction. Cooperative learning has its advantages and disadvantages because this technique depends on many personal and organizational issues. The position of this paper is to continue implementing cooperative learning in classrooms for studying mathematics because this intervention supports students, signifies collaboration, and underlines the role of peer relationships in education.
Aguanta, E. R., & Tan, D. A. (2018). Effects of dyad cooperative learning strategy on students’ academic performance and attitude towards mathematics. International Journal of English and Education, 7(3), 303-313.
Alzahrani, K. S. (2017). Metacognition and cooperative learning in the mathematics classroom. International Electronic Journal of Mathematics Education, 12(3), 475-491.
Nasution, Y. S., & Surya, E. (2017). Application of TPS type cooperative learning in improving student’s mathematics learning outcomes. International Journal of Sciences Basic and Applied Research, 34(1), 116-125.
Sari, D. K., Mulyono, M., & Asih, T. S. N. (2019). Mathematical problem solving ability viewed from extrovert introvert personality types on cooperative learning models type rally coach. Unnes Journal of Mathematics Education Research, 8(2), 141-146.