WHAT STUDENTS HAVE TO SAY: A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS’ EXPERIENCES LEARNING MATHEMATICS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL MATHEMATICS CLASSES by Marc C. Brown
SHIRLAN M. JENKINS, Ed.D., Faculty Mentor and Chair LINDA M. CRAWFORD, Ph.D., Committee Member TINA R. BROWN, Ph.D., Committee Member
Barbara Butts Williams, Ph.D., Dean, School of Education
A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy
Capella University December 2012
© Marc Brown, 2012
Abstract The central research question of the study asks: how do middle school students experience learning mathematics in middle school mathematics class? The additional research questions that guide the study ask: what are some of the barriers to learning mathematics in middle school mathematics class and what causes students to understand certain mathematics concepts in middle school mathematics class? The purpose of the study is to discover and understand middle school students’ experiences learning mathematics in middle school mathematics classes. Qualitative methods are utilized, and a basic design is employed that uses the interview, document collection, and field notes in order to gather data. The results of the study show repetitive themes communicated by the participants related to how hard middle school mathematics is, how students have to work on mathematics problems by themselves, the fast pace at which middle school students have to work, student disruptions in the mathematics classroom, students playing and talking in the mathematics classroom, and that there are many skills, tools, and resources within the middle school mathematics class that help middle school students learn mathematics. It is concluded that learning mathematics in middle school mathematics classes can be an intimidating experience especially in light of the fact that some of the teachers give little help and that the pace at which some teachers move may be a little too fast for some students. It is also concluded that middle school mathematics students cannot learn mathematics effectively in the presence of competing stimuli such as students talking about things other than mathematics or students simply playing in class. Conversely, however, it is concluded that students have positive experiences learning and understanding mathematics in middle school mathematics classes as a result
of certain skills, tools and resources being in place. Based off of the findings of the study, it is recommended that the study be replicated using other American sub-cultures, the “new” findings of the study be tested as hypotheses, the data from the study be rereviewed, and that the study be completed using observations as the primary means of data collection.
Dedication I thought long and hard about to whom (or what) this work should be dedicated. The list would be too many if I were to dedicate to the many possible prospects. As such, I finally remembered who was there with me—unconditionally—up to and through this point in my 44 years on this earth. So, I dedicate this work to myself. Selah.
Acknowledgments To me, it would make no sense whatsoever if I did not acknowledge my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It would be almost just as nonsensical if I did not acknowledge my wife and children who endured the time I took away from the family as I completed this dissertation—for the former, all praise is due, and, for the latter, thanks for hanging in there with me. This work represents the culmination and expression of a journey I began many years ago. Beyond the journey, the completion of this dissertation is the truest of paradoxes in that it is the beginning of the end. Yes, the acknowledgements already made go without saying; however, and unbeknownst to many, acknowledgement must be made to an individual who is responsible for the impetus and motivation that is and has been an integral part of my journey from having no...
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