Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Mathematical Sciences

Advisor

Shannon W. Dingman

Committee Member

Bernard Madison

Second Committee Member

Laura Kent

Third Committee Member

Edmund Harriss

Abstract

The goal of this study is to explore and characterize the effects of using a dynamic graphing utility (DGU) on conceptual understanding and attitudes toward mathematics, measured by the responses of college algebra students to an attitude survey and concepts assessment. Two sections of college algebra taught by the primary researcher are included in the study, with one group using the dynamic graphing utility Desmos (www.desmos.com), and the other using the TI-84 (or equivalent) graphing calculator as a control. The Precalculus Concept Assessment (Carlson, Oehrtman, & Engelke, 2010) was used to measure aspects of students’ conceptual understanding of course material, while the Student Attitude Survey developed at UMass-Dartmouth (Brookstein, Hegedus, Dalton, Moniz, & Tapper, 2011) was adopted to explore student attitudes. Both instruments were administered at the beginning and end of the 16-week term. Although no statistically significant overall difference was detected in the change in mean PCA scores between the two groups, analysis of results suggests that there were differences in the type of reasoning abilities whose development was supported by the use of the two devices. However, the largest PCA score improvements occurred among female students in the treatment group. The most consistent results from the SAS concerned student attitudes toward group work, indicating a negative trend in this attitude component. There were some indications that students using the DGU Desmos were more engaged with using technology as part of the learning process. Implications and limitations of the present study are discussed in detail, as well as directions and suggestions for future research.

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