Engagement and affect patterns in high school mathematics classrooms that exhibit spontaneous problem posing: an exploratory framework and study

Lorna Headrick, Adi Wiezel, Gabriel Tarr, Xiaoxue Zhang, Catherine E. Cullicott, James A. Middleton, Amanda Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Spontaneous problem posing (SPP) is presented as a phenomenon central to mathematical thinking, wherein learners generate problems without formal prompting, and where posed problems originate from the learner’s motivation to improve their knowledge. Because of this, they may serve as important markers of productive mathematical engagement—in particular, affective engagement—both for problem posers and their classroom communities (D’Mello & Graesser in Learning and Instruction, 22(2), 145–157, 2012). We report on a study which utilized mixed methods to examine SPP and associated affective engagement of students in four early high school mathematics classrooms in two geographic regions of the USA. For each classroom, we used observational and experience sampling methods to examine the patterns of affect problem posers and their peers experienced at individual and group levels, respectively, on a day with at least one instance of SPP observed compared with a day with no observed instances of SPP. Results show evidence of positive affect among problem posers, while their peers reported fewer negative emotions about mathematics tasks on days with SPP than on days without SPP. Moreover, a detailed analysis of two spontaneous problem posers revealed that they showed a desire to extend their own mathematical thinking, expressed dissatisfaction with their current knowledge, and directed their problems primarily towards the teacher. Results are discussed regarding the need to support students’ confidence in their original mathematical ideas in class, and for reducing negative emotional responses to mathematics tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-456
Number of pages22
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Volume105
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Affect in mathematics
  • Early high school mathematics classes
  • Mathematical curiosity
  • Mathematical engagement
  • Mathematical problem
  • Spontaneous problem posing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Education

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