Spatial ability and dispositions toward mathematics in college algebra: Gender-related differences
Lee Ann Nimmons, Georgia State University, United States
Georgia State University . Awarded
Purpose. This study focused on the effects of a graphing calculator enhanced course on gender differences in students' spatial visualization, level of understanding, and dispositions toward mathematics and technology in College Algebra. It also focused on the effects of using activities to encourage students to continue in mathematics on gender differences in students' dispositions toward mathematics. The purpose of the study was to create both a visually enhanced College Algebra course and an atmosphere which would promote the study of mathematics to all students.
Methods and procedures. Students in four sections of College Algebra participated in the study. There were three treatment sections and one non-treatment section. Two of the treatment sections used fully integrated graphing calculator technology. Additionally, students in one of these sections participated in activities to encourage students in the study of mathematics. Students in the other treatment section were taught in a traditional fashion without the use of the graphing calculator but participated in activities to encourage students in the study of mathematics. Students in the non-treatment section were taught in a traditional fashion without the use of the graphing calculator and did not participate in activities to encourage the study of mathematics.
Statistical tests and qualitative methods were used to analyze the data. Student interviews, students' essays, and instructor's journal entries provided the basis for the qualitative analysis.
Results. The study revealed that both male and female students who were taught using the graphing calculator scored significantly higher on tests of spatial visualization than their counterparts not using the graphing calculator. Additionally, female students who participated in activities to encourage the study of mathematics showed significant shifts in the positive direction in their dispositions toward mathematics during the investigation.
Conclusions. Female students who used the graphing calculator consistently showed greater gains in spatial visualization skills and in level of understanding over male students who used the graphing calculator. Furthermore, overall student retention, as well as the retention of female students, was higher in the sections using the graphing calculator.
Both the graphing calculator and the activities to encourage the study of mathematics brought about lasting positive changes in female students' dispositions toward mathematics.
Nimmons, L.A. Spatial ability and dispositions toward mathematics in college algebra: Gender-related differences. Ph.D. thesis, Georgia State University.
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