Friday, October 30, 2015

Interest And Recognition Can Help A Student Become A ‘Math Person’

In a new study published in the journal Child Development, Florida International University Professor Zahra Hazari found that interest and recognition can help a student become a "math person" and pursue a STEM career.

Math isn't exactly every student's favorite subject, but those who have an affinity for it aren't necessarily born a "math person," as one might think.
"Much of becoming a 'math person' and pursuing a related STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) career has to do with being recognized and becoming interested - not just being able to do it," said Hazari, who specializes in STEM Education at FIU's College of Education and STEM Transformation Institute, according to the NEA blog. "This is important for promoting math education for everyone since it is not just about confidence and performance."
Hazari, who worked with colleagues Jennifer D. Cribbs from Western Kentucky University, and Philip M. Sadler and Gerhard Sonnert, both from Harvard University suggests that interest and recognition are key factors that can help students develop math skills.
The study, "Establishing an Explanatory Model for Mathematics Identity," suggests that students who feel confident in the subject won't necessarily become engaged in it, as previous studies have suggested.
The team surveyed more than 9,000 college calculus students from across the country. They found that students in the high-level course wanted to pursue math mainly because they'd received recognition for their abilities and also found it interesting.
In the survey, students were asked if they thought parents, friends, relatives, and math teachers saw them as a "math person."
Those who responded "yes" were classified as feeling recognized.
In other words, what motivates a student to pursue a career in STEM and encourages them to continue along this path is interest, recognition, and engagement.
"It is surprising that a student who becomes confident in his math abilities will not necessarily develop a math identity," Hazari said. "We really have to engage students in more meaningful ways through their own interests and help them overcome challenges and recognize them for doing so. If we want to empower students and provide access to STEM careers, it can't just be about confidence and performance. Attitudes and personal motivation matters immensely."
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