Research into Math, Technology, and a Growth Mindset
This is my Capstone Poster representing the research I completed. Click the link below to see a PDF version of this poster.
Background and Need
The intent of this study is to understand if developing inquiry strategies in mathematics will lead to an increased math mindset and improve student performance on Bridges in Mathematics assessments. International, state, and local data prove that there is a need to develop strategies to increase student math scores. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assesses student achievement in mathematics and science internationally. The TIMMS mathematics achievement scales summarize student performance based on the achievement across all participating countries, in fourth and eighth grade. In 2015, over 580,000 students in 57 countries and 7 benchmarking entities (regional jurisdictions of countries such as states or provinces) participated in TIMSS. For fourth grade mathematics, 49 countries participated. The United States Ranked 14th with a score of 539. East Asian countries were the top achievers for fourth grade mathematics. (Mullis, Martin, Foy, & Hooper, 2016 ). The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a cross-national test given every three years. In 2015, the United States ranked 38th out of 71 countries in mathematics. On a different test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), United States fourth graders received a score of 240 out of 500 (Desilver, 2017). Common Core Standards are leading United States students to develop a deeper understanding of what they are learning by using 21st century skills. Education is moving away from memorizing information, and moving towards teaching students how to access information and think critically about what they are learning (Urbani, Roshandel, Michaels, & Truesdell, 2017).
California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) scores in Mathematics, prove that there is a need to develop strategies to increase student math scores. In 2017, fourth grade students scored lower in the area of Mathematics than in English Language Arts/Literacy. In Mathematics, 16.83% scored “Standard Exceeded”, 23.62% scored “Standard Met”, 31.55% scored “Standard Nearly Met”, and 28.01% scored “Standard Not Met.” (CAASPP Results, 2017).
Napa Valley Unified School District trains and encourages teachers to focus on implementing 21st century skills in the classroom. This district places an importance on students using critical thinking skills to answer questions and articulate what they are learning. This district has places an emphasis on creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, character, global citizenship, inquiry and open-mindedness. (Napa Valley Unified School District, 2016). The belief that intelligence or other skills can be continually improved with practice causes students to develop perseverance (Robinson, 2017). This mindset ties in to what this school district desires teachers to implement in their classrooms. The northern California Title 1 school in this study is in a partnership with a local education foundation. Through this partnership, this school site has the opportunity to be coached by experts in the field of mathematics using Bridges in Mathematics, the core math curriculum for this school. This site is specifically focusing on using of inquiry in mathematics.
This study seeks to investigates the question : Does inquiry based instruction develop a positive math mindset and increase student performance on Bridges in Mathematics assessments?
The following themes were identified in this study: inquiry, mindset, and collaboration within mathematics. Research has shown that using inquiry in math and developing a positive math mindset lead to greater student understanding. One of the seminal researchers in the area of inquiry and math mindset is Jo Boaler. Jo Boaler reveals insights into how a positive math mindset empowers students to develop deeper learning. Boaler discusses the importance of encouraging students to think deeply about mathematics through hands-on experiences, project-based curriculum, curriculum with real-life applications, and providing opportunities for students to effectively collaborate (Boaler, 2016). One of the main points of Boaler’s work is the importance of changing from lecture-based, passive classrooms to active and collaborative classrooms. She promotes a project-based approach that requires students to talk with one another to solve challenging math problems. Boaler states that when students collaborate with one another and use questioning, they become actively engaged, which results in improved math scores (Publishers Weekly, 2008). After teaching different strategies, the teacher should act as a facilitator while students persevere in solving problems. Boaler discusses the importance of using a growth mindset in mathematics to teach children to use the ability of perseverance while solving math problems. This ties in with the studies of Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist who coined the terms “Growth” and “Fixed” mindsets (Robinson, 2017). Dweck discusses how students with a growth mindset are more willing to work on challenging problems, and stick with that challenge, despite setbacks. This can be achieved by teachers explicitly teaching students about the brain, and how it changes during learning. She encourages teachers to discuss neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form and reform new neural connections in response to experiences, with students and apply it to what they are learning (Robinson, 2017). Learning about a growth mindset can level the playing field by providing greater gains of achievement, especially for students who are at risk for lower achievement (Dweck, 2015). Having a positive math mindset helps students become more confident in math and allows them to prime their brains to think more effectively (Sparks, 2015). Neuroscientists at Stanford University have found that students who have a positive math mindset about math show more efficient brain activity during math thinking (Sparks, 2015). A positive math mindset is necessary for effective inquiry instruction to take place.
When students are using inquiry in mathematics that activates their prior knowledge and interests, they become more engaged in what they are doing (Boldt & Levine, 1999). Inquiry naturally lends itself to collaboration. Inquiry embedded into student collaboration leads to greater student understanding, and prepares students to successfully engage in the “4 Cs”: Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical Thinking. Students engaging in deeper levels of discussion make discoveries during the process of talking about the strategies they are using to solve problems (James, Lorie, 2016). Teaching through inquiry provides an active approach to learning where students can participate in activities that not only help them understand the standards being taught, but also the learning process and strategies being used (Stonewater, 2005). When students explain their mathematical reasoning to one another, they deepen their levels of understanding and help process the strategies being used (James, 2016). For inquiry, teachers need to allow time for students to collaborate with one another and engage at their own levels (Harris, Greg & Khai Ma, 2018). Teacher preparation will be key to student success. The teacher must first model what needs to be done and allow time for student reflection. There was a two year study that took place in the state of Washington at a Title 1 elementary school. During this study, mathematics was taught by using a growth mindset, student collaboration, technology, and intervention groups. At the end of the two years, the results from the Washington State standardized math test showed that 74% of the fourth-grade students met grade-level standards (James, 2016).
To see my References, click the link to my Research Paper at the top of this page.