Problem solving is an integral part of mathematics and is therefore an essential skill to learn. Female students in particular seem to struggle with this specific area of mathematics more so than males. This study provides college mathematics instructors with an author-developed structured instrument, Examine-Strategize-Solve-Reflect (ESSR), which can be used, not only to assess female college students' problem solving strengths and weaknesses, but also to instruct students in the processes and strategies necessary for successful mathematical problem solving. The researcher hypothesized that improving female college students' problem solving skills will in turn raise students' mathematical confidence in their ability to solve mathematical problems.
A quasi-experimental design that included repeated pretests, repeated posttests, and removal of treatment in order to mitigate the threats to validity was used for this study. The results of an analysis of the descriptive statistics from the ESSR pretests indicated that the female college students in this study were strong in two components of mathematical problem solving: strategizing on ways to solve the problem and examining the problem. The results also indicated that the female college students in this study were weak in two components of mathematical problem solving: solving the problem and the reflecting upon the process.
Furthermore, results from a paired-samples t-test showed that the ESSR instrument accurately assesses female college students' mathematical problem solving skills and the results from a MANCOVA with repeated measures indicated that there was a significant effect of the intervention time periods on students' subsequent ESSR score. In addition, female college students in this study ranked themselves significantly more confident in their mathematical problem solving ability at the end of the study than they did at the beginning of the study. The largest effect sizes were in identifying the unknown, solving a math problem they had never seen before, solving a math problem by sketching graphs or diagrams, solving a math problem by using different strategies, and solving a math problem using structured methods. All five of these items can be tied directly to the structure of the ESSR instrument and the study that was conducted.
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 71/11, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Mathematics education, Womens studies, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Assessment, Female college students, Mathematical confidence, Mathematics, Problem-solving, Structured instrument, Women students|
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