Chapter 9. Improving girls’ interest in mathematics through writing
This chapter argues that one effective way to engage students, especially female students, in the learning of mathematics is to incorporate writing activities into mathematics classrooms. The chapter reports on findings from a mixed-methods research study which examined female and male middle school students’ perceptions of using writing as a tool for learning mathematics. Two research questions were examined: (1) What are students’ attitudes towards writing in mathematics classes? (2) What indications of mathematical knowledge growth and learner development can be found in student writing for mathematics classes? A survey instrument was administered to 293 middle school students. Using a Likert Scale format, the students responded to 28 survey items about their study of mathematics and their use of writing in mathematics classes. A t-test was used to analyze these quantitative survey results. Additionally, five open-ended questions on the survey asked what students had learned from using writing in their mathematics classes and how they viewed this teaching approach. These open-ended responses were qualitatively analyzed to provide a deeper understanding of students’ views on the use of writing in mathematics classes. Ultimately this study offers evidence which suggests that writing can be a key to heightening female students’ interest in mathematics.