Impact of Teaching an Interdisciplinary Course Introduction of Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences on High School Students' Skills and Attitudes Towards Mathematics in a JBMSHP Summer Program
Research shows that the subject of mathematics, although revered, remains a source of trepidation for many individuals, as they find it difficult to form a connection between the work they do on paper and their work's practical applications. This research study describes the impact of teaching a challenging introductive applied mathematics course on high school students' skills and attitudes towards mathematics in a college Summer Program. In the analysis of my research data, I identified several emerging changes in skills and attitudes towards mathematics, skills that high-school students needed or developed when taking the mathematical modeling course. Results indicated that the applied mathematics course had a positive impact on several students' attitudes, in general, such as, self-confidence, meanings of what mathematics is, and their perceptions of what solutions are. It also had a positive impact on several skills, such as translating real-life situations to mathematics via flow diagrams, translating the models' solutions back from mathematics to the real world, and interpreting graphs. Students showed positive results when the context of their problems was applied or graphical, and fewer improvement on problems that were not. Research also indicated some negatives outcomes, a decrease in confidence for certain students, and persistent negative ways of thinking about graphs. Based on these findings, I make recommendations for teaching similar mathematical modeling at the pre-university level, to encourage the development of young students through educational, research and similar mentorship activities, to increase their inspiration and interest in mathematics, and possibly consider a variety of sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics-related (STEM) fields and careers.