Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Vena M. Long

Committee Members

P. Mark Taylor, Lynn L. Hodge, Charles R. Collins

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the mathematics learning practices in the lives of students in a specialized residential high school in the Southeastern region of the United States. In particular, the study explores how mathematics classroom micro-culture shapes and is shaped by students‘ developing identities as mathematics learners, and what mathematics learning means to them. These purposes were achieved through the lens of the theoretical framework of identity in practice (Wenger, 1998), multiple framework (Martin, 2000), and the interpretive scheme (Cobb, Gresalfi, & Hodge, 2009).

Mixed research methods were used to conduct the study. Surveys, semi-structured interviews, observations, documentation and classroom artifacts provided appropriate data sources for information collected between January and March 2009. Twenty-five junior students were invited to complete the survey at the beginning of the study. Then, six participants included three Calculus I students and three Calculus II students were selected purposely for the in-depth, one-on-one interview study.

The findings suggested the relationship between the mathematics classroom environments and students‘ developing relationships with mathematics. Participants expressed positively of their experiences in their classes. The nature of instructional practices contributes to students‘ positive views of mathematics and what it means to do and be successful in mathematics. Further, data indicated that rich residential academic community, together with teachers, and peers, enhance students‘ success in mathematics education. The results of this study can be used to improve practices for creating specialized residential learning environments necessary to the needs and unique challenges of talented and gifted students, as well as to develop strong mathematical identities, both of which contribute significantly to academic persistence and achievement in mathematics.

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