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2018 Ph.D. Candidates

Enes Akbuga


Ph.D. Mathematics Education

“Motivation Intervention Through Science and Engineering Integrated Calculus Tasks”

Although national interest has been focused on increasing STEM graduates, calculus courses still pose a challenge for a significant number of STEM major students. Often, students in these courses do not perceive the relevancy of the material to their future careers causing perhaps low motivation levels while learning the material. Recent research studies suggest that interventions might be a useful tool to improve student motivation. The purpose of this quasi-experimental research study is to measure the impact of an intervention on three student motivational aspects - performance expectations, utility value, and interest. The intervention consisted of the engagement of students in calculus tasks with specific applications they will encounter in subsequent science and engineering courses. They were designed to explicitly connect calculus concepts to other disciplines. Six Calculus I sections were selected for this study, three were randomly assigned to a treatment group where the intervention was implemented twice during a semester and student motivational aspects were measured through surveys. The results indicate that the impact of the intervention on student motivation was not statistically significant by considering instructor as a random effect. However, the intervention had a positive statistically significant impact on female students’ utility value and interest more than it did male students.

Sonalee Bhattacharyya


Ph.D. Mathematics Education

“Investigating How an Informal Summer Program can Sustain Teachers in their Profession”

Teacher turnover is a large problem in American society today. Researchers have examined how to support the retention of teachers through teacher induction and continuing education programs, mentoring opportunities, and building a supportive community and environment. However, despite efforts by educators, administration, and universities to combat this problem, turnover rates remain high. Although there is a large body  of research on how traditional professional development supports teachers, there is a lack of evidence on how informal summer programs, such as summer math camps, support teachers. In this study we examine the experiences of five teachers in a summer math camp environment that includes a teaching component and an associated professional development. A phenomenological approach is taken to understand the experiences of the teachers, how the setting contributes to the experiences, and how the experiences help to sustain the teachers in their profession. The findings of this study reveal that the teachers experienced learning of mathematics and about teaching They formed mentoring relationships with professors who ran the program. They collaborated with other teachers and colleagues and formed lasting friendships. They adopted teaching strategies and honed their craft during the course of the summer math camp. Most importantly, they were inspired to stay in the profession because of the motivating and supportive environment that was created in the summer math camp.  The collection of experiences the teachers had in this setting contributed to sustaining them in the profession of teaching. 

Joni Lindsey


Ph.D. Mathematics Education

“Evolving Mathematical Identity in Post-Secondary Students”

Mathematics encompasses more than formulas, theorems and proofs. For many, mathematics can be a way of life or even a culture and like within any culture, an individual who associates with that culture has an identity: a description of how one knows and sees oneself with respect to the norms and members of the culture. However, it can be argued the mathematical culture has barriers to entry by members of certain groups. These barriers are built upon stereotypes and biases and these biases and stereotypes are now controlling who can enter the discipline and how they do so (Burton, 2009). Students often enter post-secondary education with these stereotypical views of mathematics that they have picked up from their K-12 education. These views place a minimal value on mathematics and in turn making students less inclined to join the mathematics community. Therefore, traditional classrooms may not be the best venues for acculturating the students into mathematics. Traditional pedagogies and procedural views of mathematics combine to produce environments in which most students must surrender agency and thought in order to follow predetermined routines (Boaler, 1997; Schoenfeld, 1988, 1992). That is why investigating how a social environment through a student mathematics seminar for post-secondary students facilitates a student’s acculturation into mathematics and perhaps diminishes the stereotypes and biases of the mathematics culture was pursued in this study. By observing four post-secondary student in a series of presentations, it was determined how mathematical identity could be affected within four particular aspects of identity: position, self-efficacy, perceptions of mathematics, and forms of engagement.