Writing to Learn Mathematics: A Mixed Method Study
Abstract (Summary)This study sought to address a research gap by studying students who had been taught mathematics using writing. The purpose of this study was to provide an analysis of students’ perceptions of the benefits and drawbacks of this pedagogical approach. The types of writing students performed in mathematics classes were described, and students’ preferences regarding these tasks were analyzed. Finally, a comparison was made between female and male students’ responses in order to see whether gender played a significant role in shaping students’ perceptions of writing as a tool for learning mathematics. Using a mixed method design, data were collected from 293 middle school students in Western Pennsylvania. A survey was used to collect quantitative data. Qualitative data were collected from the student participants in the form of five openended questions. Students also submitted samples of writing from their mathematics classes. Based on the results of the data analysis, it can be concluded that students had a positive attitude towards writing in mathematics classes. This was particularly evident among students who were struggling with mathematics. Students with lower letter grades (C, D, and F) indicated that they were much more in favor of mathematics classes that use writing. The results also indicate that there is evidence of students’ mathematical knowledge growth in the students’ writings. In their responses to the open-ended survey questions, the students gave detailed explanations of how their approach to mathematics learning and their understanding of mathematical concepts had changed. Students’ writing samples showed how the students were learning to use writing to explore alternative solutions to problems and also to check and reflect on their understanding of new mathematical concepts. Finally, the findings of the study also suggest a clear benefit to female mathematics students from the use of writing as a tool for learning mathematics. When it comes to the problem of helping female students succeed in mathematics classes, this study shows that writing is the solution for which mathematics teachers have been searching.
School Location:USA - Pennsylvania
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:12/20/2007