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Innovative strategies used to teach mathematics: A look at educators and classrooms across six countries

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Mathematics is an increasingly critical subject and the achievement of students in mathematics has been the focus of many recent reports and studies. However, few studies exist that both observe and discuss the specific teaching and assessment techniques employed in

Mathematics is an increasingly critical subject and the achievement of students in mathematics has been the focus of many recent reports and studies. However, few studies exist that both observe and discuss the specific teaching and assessment techniques employed in the classrooms across multiple countries. The focus of this study is to look at classrooms and educators across six high achieving countries to identify and compare teaching strategies being used. In Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and Switzerland, twenty educators were interviewed and fourteen educators were observed teaching. Themes were first identified by comparing individual teacher responses within each country. These themes were then grouped together across countries and eight emerging patterns were identified. These strategies include students active involvement in the classroom, students given written feedback on assessments, students involvement in thoughtful discussion about mathematical concepts, students solving and explaining mathematics problems at the board, students exploring mathematical concepts either before or after being taught the material, students engagement in practical applications, students making connections between concepts, and students having confidence in their ability to understand mathematics. The strategies identified across these six high achieving countries can inform educators in their efforts of increasing student understanding of mathematical concepts and lead to an improvement in mathematics performance.

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2014-12

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Understandings of Function Notation and its Impacts on Student Approaches to Problem Solving

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The focus of this study was to examine how a student's understanding of function notation impacted their approaches to problem solving. Before this question could be answered, students' understandings about function notation had to be determined. The goal of the

The focus of this study was to examine how a student's understanding of function notation impacted their approaches to problem solving. Before this question could be answered, students' understandings about function notation had to be determined. The goal of the first part of the data was to determine the norm of understanding for function notation for students after taking a college level pre-calculus class. From the data collected, several ideas about student understanding of notation emerged. The goal of the second data set was to determine if student understanding of notation impacted their reasoning while problem solving, and if so, how it impacted their reasoning. Collected data suggests that much of what students "understand" about function notation comes from memorized procedures and that the notation may have little or no meaning for students in context. Evidence from this study indicates that this lack of understanding of function notation does negatively impact student's ability to solve context based problems. In order to build a strong foundation of function, a well-developed understanding of function notation is necessary. Because function notation is a widely accepted way of communicating information about function relationships, understanding its uses and meanings in context is imperative for developing a strong foundation that will allow individuals to approach functions in a meaningful and productive manner.

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2015-05

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Exploring Student Thinking in Novel Linear Relationship Problems

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This is a report of a study that investigated the thinking of a high-achieving precalculus student when responding to tasks that required him to define linear formulas to relate covarying quantities. Two interviews were conducted for analysis. A team of

This is a report of a study that investigated the thinking of a high-achieving precalculus student when responding to tasks that required him to define linear formulas to relate covarying quantities. Two interviews were conducted for analysis. A team of us in the mathematics education department at Arizona State University initially identified mental actions that we conjectured were needed for constructing meaningful linear formulas. This guided the development of tasks for the sequence of clinical interviews with one high-performing precalculus student. Analysis of the interview data revealed that in instances when the subject engaged in meaning making that led to him imagining and identifying the relevant quantities and how they change together, he was able to give accurate definitions of variables and was usually able to define a formula to relate the two quantities of interest. However, we found that the student sometimes had difficulty imagining how the two quantities of interest were changing together. At other times he exhibited a weak understanding of the operation of subtraction and the idea of constant rate of change. He did not appear to conceptualize subtraction as a quantitative comparison. His inability to conceptualize a constant rate of change as a proportional relationship between the changes in two quantities also presented an obstacle in his developing a meaningful formula that relied on this understanding. The results further stress the need to develop a student's ability to engage in mental operations that involve covarying quantities and a more robust understanding of constant rate of change since these abilities and understanding are critical for student success in future courses in mathematics.

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2014-05

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The impact of tutoring with a supplemental educational services model on intrinsic motivation and mathematical achievement

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The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of individualized afterschool tutoring, under federal Supplemental Educational Services (SES), on mathematical and general academic intrinsic motivation and mathematical achievement of at-risk students. The population of this study consisted of

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of individualized afterschool tutoring, under federal Supplemental Educational Services (SES), on mathematical and general academic intrinsic motivation and mathematical achievement of at-risk students. The population of this study consisted of two third graders and five fourth graders from an elementary school in the Reynolds School District in Portland, Oregon. One participant was male. The other six were female. Six of the students were Hispanic, and one student was multiethnic. Students' parents enrolled their children in free afterschool tutoring with Mobile Minds Tutoring, an SES provider in the state of Oregon. The participants were given pre- and post-assessments to measure their intrinsic motivation and achievement. The third graders took the Young Children's Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (Y-CAIMI) and the fourth graders took the Children's Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (CAIMI). All students took the Group Mathematics Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GMADE) according to their grade level. The findings from this study are consistent with the literature review, in that individualized tutoring can help increase student motivation and achievement. Six out of the seven students who participated in this study showed an increase in mathematical achievement, and four out of the seven showed an increase in intrinsic motivation.

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2011

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Technology two ways: modeling mathematics teacher educators' use of technology in the classroom

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This study explores teacher educators' personal theories about the instructional practices central to preparing future teachers, how they enact those personal theories in the classroom, how they represent the relationship between content, pedagogy, and technology, and the function of technology

This study explores teacher educators' personal theories about the instructional practices central to preparing future teachers, how they enact those personal theories in the classroom, how they represent the relationship between content, pedagogy, and technology, and the function of technology in teacher educators' personal theories about the teaching of mathematics and their practices as enacted in the classroom. The conceptual frameworks of knowledge as situated and technology as situated provide a theoretical and analytical lens for examining individual instructor's conceptions and classroom activity as situated in the context of experiences and relationships in the social world. The research design employs a mixed method design to examine data collected from a representative sample of three full-time faculty members teaching methods of teaching mathematics in elementary education at the undergraduate level. Three primary types of data were collected and analyzed:

a) structured interviews using the repertory grid technique to model the mathematics education instructors' schemata regarding the teaching of mathematics methods; b) content analysis of classroom observations to develop models that represent the relationship of pedagogy, content, and technology as enacted in the classrooms; and c) brief retrospective protocols after each observed class session to explore the reasoning and individual choices made by an instructor that underlie their teaching decisions in the classroom. Findings reveal that although digital technology may not appear to be an essential component of an instructor's toolkit, technology can still play an integral role in teaching. This study puts forward the idea of repurposing as technology -- the ability to repurpose items as models, tools, and visual representations and integrate them into the curriculum. The instructors themselves became the technology, or the mediational tool, and introduced students to new meanings for "old" cultural artifacts in the classroom. Knowledge about the relationships between pedagogy, content, and technology and the function of technology in the classroom can be used to inform professional development for teacher educators with the goal of improving teacher preparation in mathematics education.

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2014

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An examination of the effect of a secondary teacher's image of instructional constraints on his enacted subject matter knowledge

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Teachers must recognize the knowledge they possess as appropriate to employ in the process of achieving their goals and objectives in the context of practice. Such recognition is subject to a host of cognitive and affective processes that have thus

Teachers must recognize the knowledge they possess as appropriate to employ in the process of achieving their goals and objectives in the context of practice. Such recognition is subject to a host of cognitive and affective processes that have thus far not been a central focus of research on teacher knowledge in mathematics education. To address this need, this dissertation study examined the role of a secondary mathematics teacher’s image of instructional constraints on his enacted subject matter knowledge. I collected data in three phases. First, I conducted a series of task-based clinical interviews that allowed me to construct a model of David’s mathematical knowledge of sine and cosine functions. Second, I conducted pre-lesson interviews, collected journal entries, and examined David’s instruction to characterize the mathematical knowledge he utilized in the context of designing and implementing lessons. Third, I conducted a series of semi-structured clinical interviews to identify the circumstances David appraised as constraints on his practice and to ascertain the role of these constraints on the quality of David’s enacted subject matter knowledge. My analysis revealed that although David possessed many productive ways of understanding that allowed him to engage students in meaningful learning experiences, I observed discrepancies between and within David’s mathematical knowledge and his enacted mathematical knowledge. These discrepancies were not occasioned by David’s active compensation for the circumstances and events he appraised as instructional constraints, but instead resulted from David possessing multiple schemes for particular ideas related to trigonometric functions, as well as from his unawareness of the mental actions and operations that comprised these often powerful but uncoordinated cognitive schemes. This lack of conscious awareness made David ill-equipped to define his instructional goals in terms of the mental activity in which he intended his students to engage, which further conditioned the circumstances and events he appraised as constraints on his practice. David’s image of instructional constraints therefore did not affect his enacted subject matter knowledge. Rather, characteristics of David’s subject matter knowledge, namely his uncoordinated cognitive schemes and his unawareness of the mental actions and operations that comprise them, affected his image of instructional constraints.

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2015

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Racial and gender identities of young mathematically-successful Latinas

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A fundamental motivation for this study was the underrepresentation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers. There is no doubt women and men can achieve at the same level in Mathematics, yet it is not clear why women

A fundamental motivation for this study was the underrepresentation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers. There is no doubt women and men can achieve at the same level in Mathematics, yet it is not clear why women are opting out. Adding race to the equation makes the underrepresentation more dramatic. Considering the important number of Latinos in the United States, especially in school age, it is relevant to find what reasons could be preventing them from participating in the careers mentioned. This study highlight the experiences young successful Latinas have in school Mathematics and how they shape their identities, to uncover potential conflicts that could later affect their participation in the field. In order to do so the author utilizes feminist approaches, Latino Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory to analyze the stories compiled. The participants were five successful Latinas in Mathematics, part of the honors track in a school in the Southwest of the United States. The theoretical lenses chosen allowed women of color to tell their story, highlighting the intersection of race, gender and socio-economical status as a factor shaping different schooling experiences. The author found that the participants distanced themselves from their home culture and from other girls at times to allow themselves to develop and maintain a successful identity as a Mathematics student. When talking about Latinos and their culture, the participants shared a view of themselves as proud Latinas who would prove others what Latinas can do. During other times while discussing the success of Latinos in Mathematics, they manifested Latinos were lazy and distance themselves from that stereotype. Similar examples about gender and Mathematics can be found in the study. The importance of the family as a motivator for their success was clear, despite the participants' concern that parents cannot offer certain types of help they feel they need. This was manifest in a tension regarding who owns the "right" Mathematics at home. Results showed that successful Latinas in the US may undergo a constant negotiation of conflicting discourses that force them to distance themselves from certain aspects of their culture, gender, and even their families, to maintain an identity of success in mathematics.

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2011

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Conceptual understanding of multiplicative properties through endogenous digital game play

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This study purposed to determine the effect of an endogenously designed instructional game on conceptual understanding of the associative and distributive properties of multiplication. Additional this study sought to investigate if performance on measures of conceptual understanding taken prior to

This study purposed to determine the effect of an endogenously designed instructional game on conceptual understanding of the associative and distributive properties of multiplication. Additional this study sought to investigate if performance on measures of conceptual understanding taken prior to and after game play could serve as predictors of game performance. Three versions of an instructional game, Shipping Express, were designed for the purposes of this study. The endogenous version of Shipping Express integrated the associative and distributive properties of multiplication within the mechanics, while the exogenous version had the instructional content separate from game play. A total of 111 fourth and fifth graders were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (endogenous, exogenous, and control) and completed pre and posttest measures of conceptual understanding of the associative and distributive properties of multiplication, along with a questionnaire. The results revealed several significant results: 1) there was a significant difference between participants' change in scores on the measure of conceptual understanding of the associative property of multiplication, based on the version of Shipping Express they played. Participants who played the endogenous version of Shipping Express had on average higher gains in scores on the measure of conceptual understanding of the associative property of multiplication than those who played the other versions of Shipping Express; 2) performance on the measures of conceptual understanding of the distributive property collected prior to game play were related to performance within the endogenous game environment; and 3) participants who played the control version of Shipping Express were on average more likely to have a negative attitude towards continuing game play on their own compared to the other versions of the game. No significant differences were found in regards to changes in scores on the measure of conceptual understanding of the distributive property based on the version of Shipping Express played, post hoc pairwise comparisons, and changes on scores on question types within the conceptual understanding of the associative and distributive property of multiplication measures. The findings from this study provide some support for a move towards the design and development of endogenous instructional games. Additional implications for the learning through digital game play and future research directions are discussed.

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2012

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Engineering-based problem solving strategies In AP calculus: an investigation into high school student performance on related rate free-response problems

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A sample of 127 high school Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus students from two schools was utilized to study the effects of an engineering design-based problem solving strategy on student performance with AP style Related Rate questions and changes in conceptions,

A sample of 127 high school Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus students from two schools was utilized to study the effects of an engineering design-based problem solving strategy on student performance with AP style Related Rate questions and changes in conceptions, beliefs, and influences. The research design followed a treatment-control multiple post-assessment model with three periods of data collection. Four high school calculus classes were selected for the study, with one class designated as the treatment and three as the controls. Measures for this study include a skills assessment, Related Rate word problem assessments, and a motivation problem solving survey. Data analysis utilized a mixed methods approach. Quantitative analysis consisted of descriptive and inferential methods utilizing nonparametric statistics for performance comparisons and structural equation modeling to determine the underlying structure of the problem solving motivation survey. Statistical results indicate that time on task was a major factor in enhanced performance between measurement time points 1 and 2. In the experimental classroom, the engineering design process as a problem solving strategy emerged as an important factor in demonstrating sustained achievement across the measurement time series when solving volumetric rates of change as compared to traditional problem solving strategies. In the control classrooms, where traditional problem solving strategies were emphasized, a greater percentage of students than in the experimental classroom demonstrated enhanced achievement from point 1 to 2, but showed decrease in achievement from point 2 to 3 in the measurement time series. Results from the problem solving motivation survey demonstrated that neither time on task nor instruction strategy produced any effect on student beliefs about and perceptions of problem solving. Qualitative error analysis showed that type of instruction had little effect on the type and number of errors committed, with the exception of procedural errors from performing a derivative and errors decoding the problem statement. Results demonstrated that students who engaged in the engineering design-based committed a larger number of decoding errors specific to Pythagorean type Related Rate problems; while students who engaged in routine problem solving did not sustain their ability to correctly differentiate a volume equation over time. As a whole, students committed a larger number of misused data errors than other types of errors. Where, misused data errors are the discrepancy between the data as given in a problem and how the student used the data in problem solving.

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2012

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Students' ways of thinking about two-variable functions and rate of change in space

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This dissertation describes an investigation of four students' ways of thinking about functions of two variables and rate of change of those two-variable functions. Most secondary, introductory algebra, pre-calculus, and first and second semester calculus courses do not require students

This dissertation describes an investigation of four students' ways of thinking about functions of two variables and rate of change of those two-variable functions. Most secondary, introductory algebra, pre-calculus, and first and second semester calculus courses do not require students to think about functions of more than one variable. Yet vector calculus, calculus on manifolds, linear algebra, and differential equations all rest upon the idea of functions of two (or more) variables. This dissertation contributes to understanding productive ways of thinking that can support students in thinking about functions of two or more variables as they describe complex systems with multiple variables interacting. This dissertation focuses on modeling the way of thinking of four students who participated in a specific instructional sequence designed to explore the limits of their ways of thinking and in turn, develop a robust model that could explain, describe, and predict students' actions relative to specific tasks. The data was collected using a teaching experiment methodology, and the tasks within the teaching experiment leveraged quantitative reasoning and covariation as foundations of students developing a coherent understanding of two-variable functions and their rates of change. The findings of this study indicated that I could characterize students' ways of thinking about two-variable functions by focusing on their use of novice and/or expert shape thinking, and the students' ways of thinking about rate of change by focusing on their quantitative reasoning. The findings suggested that quantitative and covariational reasoning were foundational to a student's ability to generalize their understanding of a single-variable function to two or more variables, and their conception of rate of change to rate of change at a point in space. These results created a need to better understand how experts in the field, such as mathematicians and mathematics educators, thinking about multivariable functions and their rates of change.

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2012