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Mathematics through their eyes : student conceptions of mathematics in everyday life

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Mathematics through their eyes : student conceptions of mathematics in everyday life

Atallah, Fida (2003) Mathematics through their eyes : student conceptions of mathematics in everyday life. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

The study focuses on exploring student conceptions of mathematics and its utility in everyday life. The research is a survey with an iterative model consisting of eight stages. These stages were conducted through three inter-related studies: exploratory, pilot and final. I started with developing an open ended questionnaire for the exploratory study. Through data analysis, I derive categories of conceptions which I used to develop a draft questionnaire to be piloted. I introduced modifications based on the results of the exploratory and pilot studies. The final questionnaire, having both open ended and choice items, was conducted with a sample of 238 female students enrolled in an institute of higher learning in the Middle East. The results of the final study indicate that around 86% the participants hold broad conceptions of mathematics as: (a) a school subject useful for everyday life, for work and for future studies (46%); (b) a form of mental activity useful for developing intellectual and problem solving abilities (31%) and (c) a group of numbers and rules for doing calculations (9%). These findings correspond with the three highest ranking conceptions of utility, which account for 68% of student responses. Students view mathematics as useful for: (a) day to day routines, work related tasks and academic and professional development (35%); (b) doing calculations and estimations (19%) and developing intellectual skills (14%). The findings also correspond with the choice of intellectual skills and practical skills as the most useful. Together, these two skills account for 81% of the student responses, with intellectual skills coming first (58%). Arithmetic was cited as the most useful subject in mathematics. It accounts for more than 80% of the responses. When asked to give examples of the use of mathematics for daily and work related tasks, several participants listed monetary applications, dealing with time, using numerical information and doing calculation as the most common. The study, while exploratory in nature, provides some interesting and hopefully useful findings. As instructional designers, it is hoped that the results will guide us to make more informed assumptions and consequently more suitable decisions regarding the instructional design process by adding to our knowledge of learner characteristics and guiding us in selecting suitable instructional strategies and resources. For mathematics educators, its findings suggest the need for more dynamic classroom environments, for introducing a wide variety of meaningful contexts, for designing 'real life' learning activities, and for presenting students with different 'faces' of mathematics (e.g. cultural, civil, and aesthetic).

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Education
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Atallah, Fida
Pagination:xii, 196 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Theses (Ph.D.)
Program:Education
Date:2003
Thesis Supervisor(s):Dicks, Dennis J.
ID Code:2038
Deposited By:Concordia University Libraries
Deposited On:27 Aug 2009 13:24
Last Modified:08 Dec 2010 10:24
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