The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Enhancing Conceptual Understanding of Fractions with New Methodological Tools (MERLO)

Marien Alet Graham, University of Pretoria (South Africa)

Lydia Omowunmi Adesanya, University of Pretoria (South Africa)


In the South African context, the state of mathematics education is a pressing concern, with both national and international assessments indicating significant underperformance among South African learners [1]. Recognising this challenge, Adesanya and Graham [2-4] pioneered the introduction of a novel tool called Meaning Equivalence Reusable Learning Objects (MERLO) to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematical concepts. Prior to our intervention, MERLO had only been implemented in countries such as Australia, Canada, Israel, Italy, Russia, and the Netherlands. Our initiative marked the first integration of MERLO into African schools, with the conviction that our educational system stands to benefit significantly, given the positive outcomes observed in other nations. This particular study focuses on addressing the issue of understanding fractions, which has been identified as a significant hurdle in mathematics education. The aim was to demonstrate to South African educators how MERLO could be effectively utilised to improve students’ grasp of fractions. Conducted in Grade 8 and 9 classrooms within Tshwane South Gauteng public schools, the research drew upon the Theory of Didactic Transposition to analyse the transformation of mathematical content into pedagogical practices. This paper is part of a broader study that adopted participatory action research and employed qualitative data collection methods. This study showcased the efficacy of integrating MERLO assessment items as pedagogical tools, enabling teachers to strategically plan and pose questions throughout their lessons on fractions. Moreover, the study highlighted how these assessment items were instrumental in gauging learners' depth of understanding of quantitative concepts, particularly fractions, thereby facilitating their learning process. However, it’s important to note that the research faced challenges due to the impact of COVID-19, leading to a reduced number of participating teachers, with only five remaining by the study's conclusion. Future endeavours in this line of inquiry should aim to involve a larger cohort of teachers to ensure broader insights and more robust conclusions.


Keywords: mathematics education, assessment, fractions




[1] Reddy, V., Winnaar, L., Juan, A., Arends, F., Harvey, J., Hanna, S., Namome, C., Sekhejane, P. & Zulu, N. “TIMSS 2019. Highlights of South African Grade 9 results in mathematics and science”, 2021, Human Sciences Research Council.


[2] Adesanya, L.O., & Graham, M.A. “Effective communication of learning intentions and success criteria in the mathematics classroom: MERLO pedagogy for senior phase South African schools”, Pythagoras, 43(1), 2022, 1-13.


[3] Adesanya, L.O., & Graham, M.A. “Promoting formative assessment practices in senior phase mathematics classrooms using meaning equivalence reusable learning objects”, South African Journal of Education, 43(3), 2023, 1-21.


[4] Graham, M.A., & Adesanya, L.O. “Teacher professional development for the teaching of mathematics: MERLO items design in the South African schools”, Conference Proceedings: 13th International Conference the Future of Education, 2023, 106-110. Filodiritto Editore.


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