The constructivist approach used in teaching college level mathematics to liberal arts majors

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Arts (D.A.)

First Committee Member

Edwin Duda, Committee Chair


The ability to think critically and to work with others in problem solving is recognized as being increasingly important in our quickly changing world. At the same time new theories of how people learn and how we might best facilitate their learning are being brought forth. The realm of higher education is perceived of as an environment where cognitive skills are advanced and critical thinking is valued. But too often the pedagogical practices of higher education are limited to lecturing and having the individual student work alone, memorizing and reiterating the lecturer's dictates. There is a need for educators in higher education to study the new theories of learning and teaching, and to implement these ideas in the classroom when and where appropriate.The purpose of this study was to consider the constructivist theory of learning, especially as it relates to college age students, and how this approach might affect student interest levels, anxiety levels, and self-perception, with regard to the learning and performing of mathematics. A course was created and taught with this approach in mind.The experimental and comparison groups used in this study consisted of 33 and 25 students, respectively, enrolled in a Finite Math course at the University of Miami. Both groups were administered pre- and post-tests measuring levels of anxiety, interest, and self-perception, with regard to mathematics. Matched pair t-tests were used to analyze the data, and student comments. from the course evaluation were considered as well when determining the impact of the course on the students' educational experience.Pre-test data showed that the experimental group had a significantly higher level of mathematics anxiety than the comparison group at the beginning of the study. Neither group showed a significant difference in anxiety levels at the end of the semester. Pre- and post-test data for both groups revealed a need for students to feel good about their ability to learn and understand mathematical ideas, and also showed each group had most interest in solving problem that related to their daily life. Anonymous course evaluation comments from the experimental group showed a majority of students found the different teaching technique to have a positive impact on the course and on their learning.


Education, Mathematics; Education, Curriculum and Instruction; Education, Higher; Education, Philosophy of

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