The purpose of the research conducted in this dissertation was to explore students' beliefs and attitudes towards mathematics learning and teaching when exposed to creative problem-solving techniques. Investigation of creative problem-solving techniques and their effect on students' beliefs towards mathematics may be helpful for retention in the STEM field, improve students' mathematics literacy, and to teach future students. The samples of each study are a reflection on the crucial times in a students' mathematics learning experience. Through the research conducted in Chapter II, I examined elementary students who had positive attitudes towards mathematics and their ability to create solvable word problems. Through the research study data collected in Chapter III, I looked at middle and high school students who attended an interactive STEM summer camp, and through the research data in Chapter IV I examined college aged, pre-service teachers' beliefs in their own mathematics ability and their ability to teach the content. The results from Chapter II suggest students who had a higher increase in their mathematical attitudes were more likely to create solvable word problems within different contexts. The findings from Chapter III indicate that when students experience carefully crafted instruction, their creativity, or at least their perceptions about creativity, can be influenced. Lastly, the findings from Chapter IV suggest college aged students, more specifically pre-service teachers who are involved in a problem-solving course where the instruction emphasizes flexibility in thought and creativity, develop more self-assurance in their own mathematics ability and teaching of mathematics. Overall, the results from this dissertation suggest that incorporating various creative problem-solving techniques within students' learning of mathematics leads to more positive beliefs in their ability to understand and perform mathematics successfully. The findings from the three studies conducted add to the current research in mathematics education by demonstrating that the specific pedagogical strategies used to teach mathematics to various levels of students is crucial in the development of each groups' own attitudes. Incorporating creative problem-solving techniques into how mathematics is presented is achievable, and can lead to more students being interested in pursuing a STEM career.
- Capraro, Mary Professor