EFFECT OF MATHEMATICAL MODELING ON STUDENTS
Students’ beliefs and attitudes toward mathematics affect their cognitive involvement in the learning process determining to a great extent the amount and quality of acquired knowledge. The formulation of these beliefs and attitudes is mainly attributed to students’ experiences in the mathematics class. This thesis reports of a case study in which a model-eliciting activity was chosen as a teaching approach which could invite students to mathematical activities different from what they were used to.
This research study was built around a short teaching intervention in a Greek high school and was designed to reveal the relevance of mathematics to real life and the social character of mathematics through open-ended activities, group work and a student-centered teaching approach. Two classes in grade 9 participated in the study, one as a control and the other as an experimental group, in order to explore whether and in what ways a mathematical modeling experience could influence students’ beliefs and attitudes toward mathematics.
Results showed no significant differences between the groups which could be attributed to the intervention. However, indicators were found to support that such activities can have positive results on various aspects of the teaching and learning in the mathematics classroom; that is low-achievers seemed to engage more in the mathematics lesson. Also the teacher of the class was inspired to include group work in his teaching methods after observing students’ enthusiasm during the intervention.
The idea for this research study stems from my own experience in different stages of the Greek mathematics education system: young people are taught mathematics in an authoritarian and traditional1 way. As a result they tend to think of mathematics as too formal, too boring and too useless for their life outside school grounds (OECD PISA, 2004; Schoenfeld, 1985). Such beliefs and attitudes toward of mathematics influence students’ motivation in learning mathematics in school and study the discipline further at university. Furthermore, students’ beliefs and attitudes often become an obstacle in their cognitive involvement with mathematics (de Abreu et al., 1997; Boaler, 1999). In an effort to improve students’ beliefs and attitudes regarding mathematics and increase their interest in the discipline, alternative teaching approaches, which promise to offer different experiences to students, could offer a solution. My study follows this rationale in the context of a Greek high school. With a short intervention on mathematical modeling, I explored the effect of a modeling experience on students’ beliefs and attitudes toward mathematics.