SAIIER 2018:Factors and interventions influencing students' attitude towards mathematics

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Effective learning environments by utilization of LIAPs (Leadership in Action Programs) in STEM
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Awareness camps on bio-diversity conservation
Factors and interventions influencing students'
attitude towards mathematics
A project of STEM Land


by Poovizhi and Pratap


At STEM Land our goal is to develop the values of responsibility, equality and the courage-to-create in children. As teachers, we wanted to examine the factors that influence students' attitude towards Mathematics, so that we can alter an attitude such as “I don’t like Mathematics and I am not good in it,” towards “Mathematics helps me view the world critically and I need patience, logical thinking and perseverance that I have or can develop”.

Description of project:

We are a team of engineers who teach and are presenting our observations in rural STEM centers run in two outreach schools of Auroville: Udavi School and Isai Ambalam School. Both schools aspire towards the holistic development of the child. The children attending come from villages surrounding Auroville. Udavi School follows the Tamil Nadu State Board syllabus, and there we work with 47 children from 7th to 9th grades intensively for 6 hrs/week for all their Math classes. Isai Ambalam School follows the Central Board syllabus, and there we work with 48 children from 3rd to 7th grades intensively for 6 hrs/week for their Environmental Sciences and Math classes.

We believe the purpose of teaching mathematics is to sharpen, broaden and make the mind supple. Given this belief, our definition of mathematics is not only the subject of Mathematics or specific mathematical concepts, but the ability to think mathematically, apply what is learned and solve problems.

For this research project, we specifically explored the factors:

  • Ability to connect mathematics with real life problem solving
  • Ability to do arithmetic calculations
  • Ability to do well in examinations
  • Learning environment
  • Does age change their attitude, i.e. children’s interest in mathematics when they were younger vs. when they are older
  • Does making a choice of learning pathways impact their interest in mathematics

We gave a survey to help us interact with the children one-to-one and understand the children better. From the survey it was clear that children are very much interested in learning mathematical concepts by doing EBDs (Education By Design) and are proud of making projects on the math concepts.

We facilitated some activities. 6th grade children at Isai Ambalam School assembled a roller coaster kit which required a lot of patience and logical thinking. They shared their work among their friends and played the game. 8th grade children at Udavi School learnt Pythagoras' theorem with help of a kit. They were able to give a presentation on Pythagoras' theorem. 5th graders at Isai Ambalam were able to find the degree of angles, and were able to understand and complete tasks given to them.

Outcomes:

“Factors and interventions influencing student’s
attitude towards mathematics”

STEM Land 2018 - Factors and Interventions Influencing Childrens Attitude towards Mathematics.jpg
PDF (10 pages)


This project has led to a draft research paper (“Factors and interventions influencing student’s attitude towards mathematics”) looking at the data obtained from the survey we gave the children, correlating and understanding what we do well at STEM Land that we would like to retain and promote. The overall conclusion is that children have retained or increased their interest in Mathematics by coming to STEM Land. Some detailed points:

  • The children in 9th grade felt accomplished with what they have been able to achieve in an environment where they pick their tasks and plan their work.
  • The ability to do well in examinations is not correlated to the children’s interest in mathematics at STEM Land.
  • Children are able to connect mathematics in their day-to-day life primarily through shopping and calculating monthly expenses. Only one student felt that he used Mathematics to change his perspective e.g. from panic of only having 10 minutes to do something, to feeling like he has time when he thinks of it as 600 seconds. However, when children are asked about what they are proud of doing at STEM Land, they are able to connect it to real-life problem solving: work that goes on at home or around home and critical skills like planning and teamwork. This they felt was achieved by solving puzzles, participating in EBDs and by visualizing concepts using Montessori materials.

Reflections:

This project has helped us clarify and emphasize our role as teachers: instead of merely imparting knowledge and information, we try to create a learning environment where children are eager to learn.

We will continue to explore various interventions that alter children's attitude towards mathematics.


STEM Land 2018 - Factors and interventions.jpg