Author

Mike Long

Date of Graduation

2004

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

“A Hands-On Approach To Calculus” was a research study designed to examine the use of hands-on inquiry centered teaching strategies in a first semester calculus class and the ramifications of the hands-on strategies. The study used an experimental class, where activities were implemented into the teaching strategies, and a control class, where traditional teaching strategies of lecture of theory and drill were used. Students' learning in the two classes was examined by comparing exam scores in the two classes and by analyzing students' journals from the experimental class. The quantitative analysis of the exam scores did not indicate any significant difference in students' learning while the qualitative analysis indicated that the students' felt their learning was impacted because multiple learning styles were addressed and real-world connections were made. Students' perceptions of the activities in the experimental class were examined using analysis of the students' journals. The students' indicated that the activities were positive because the activities improved the clarity of the calculus concepts, they were engaging, and they provided an opportunity for the teacher to be enthusiastic about mathematics, which spilled over to the students. Students also indicated a fondness for the group learning that took place. Finally students' attitudes toward math were examined using a survey instrument and by analyzing writing assignments in the experimental and control classes. Quantitative analysis of the survey instrument did not reveal any changes in students' attitudes from the beginning of the semester to the end of the semester in either class. Qualitative analysis of the writing assignments indicated a positive change in many of the students' attitudes about mathematics in both classes even when some hurdles were working against the intended positive impact. This analysis also indicated that the enthusiasm of the teacher, which was not limited to the experimental class, was a major factor in the changes in attitudes. Overall, the hands-on teaching strategies, which students perceived as positive, provided an excellent vehicle for practicing good teaching, which impacted students' learning and students' attitudes about mathematics.

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