Improving High School Students’ Perceptions of Mathematics Through a Mathematical Modelling Course
Literature shows there is support for adding connection and relevancy in mathematics for students through the use of real-world context and data in mathematical modelling. A teaching unit on mathematical modelling was designed within the context of future affordable housing for the local surrounding area. The teaching unit was implemented, and data were collected to address the research question: ‘How does exposure to mathematical modelling influence students’ perceptions and understandings of mathematical modelling?’ Data were collected through pre- and post-teaching unit surveys and post-teaching unit student interviews. Pre- and post-surveys were used to establish any changes in students’ perception towards mathematics, understanding of mathematical modelling and perceived relevance of mathematical modelling use to their own lives. Student interviews gained further insight into the student experience and associated perception changes. Statistical analysis of the survey responses included both hypothesis and nonparametric testing. Interviews were analysed using a thematic qualitative approach. Our analysis showed that a greater understanding of mathematical modelling was achieved, with many students unfamiliar with the concept prior to the teaching unit. It was also found that through the real-world context of the mathematical modelling unit, students had a new-found interest in mathematics.