Working in a department of education in charge of

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Working in a Department of Education, in charge of Science and Mathematics teachers’ pre-service and in- service training in Portugal, awoke in me the need to undertake an investigation that could be used again later by teachers in the classroom and at the same time go beyond the realisation of an academic study – a doctoral thesis. In 1994/1995, I was confronted with César’s (1994) studies, namely the results of her doctoral thesis about the advantages of peer work and the many questions which remained unanswered regarding this way of conceiving the appropriation of knowledge and the mobilisation of competencies. In an attempt to answer some of these questions I carried out research for a doctoral thesis (Carvalho 2001). When I decided to study pupils from the 7 th grade, as this was the first of three years that form the last cycle of compulsory education in Portugal during which instances of disinterest, retention and dropping out frequently
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19 happen, it seemed fit to choose a curricular unit of the Mathematics subject that had been introduced with the Reform of the Educational System undertaken in Portugal during the ‘80s. Choosing the Statistics curricular unit, which in Portugal is always part of the Mathematics curriculum, both in basic and compulsory levels – nine years – and in the secondary level – three years – seemed interesting because: (a) it is a topic of the Mathematics program that has hardly been studied by Portuguese researchers; (b) it allows the creation of tasks that help in understanding the dynamics of interactions produced by the pupils when working collaboratively; (c) it explores didactic contents with situations that are close to pupils’ real-life situations, thus encouraging greater motivation and adherence to the proposed tasks; (d) it holds an increasingly important position in present society, which will eventually be reflected in school programs, (e) it contributes to the development of more critical, reflective and participating citizens. 4.2. THE INVESTIGATION: A CONTRIBUTION TO STATISTICS EDUCATION. The investigation “Peer interaction: Contributions towards the promotion of logic development and statistical performance in the 7 th grade” focuses on the study of peer interactions in the Mathematics classroom, namely after the 7 th grade curricular unit of Statistics has been taught. The problem under study is the understanding of the progress that occurs when pupils work in dyads on various tasks, both in terms of logic development and in terms of statistical performance. Tasks such as using a formula to calculate a quantity are said to be “usual” tasks, whereas solving problems are “unusual” tasks. From this problem, the following main objectives were defined: (a) to verify whether pupils, when working in dyads and solving unusual Statistics tasks (Experimental Group), show more progress in their logic development in comparison to pupils who do not try this form of work or tasks (Control Group); (b) to verify whether pupils,
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