Abstract by Tamara Stark
Affect and Useful Mathematics
“A 2005 Associated Press poll showed that nearly 40% of the adults surveyed said that they had hated mathematics in school…twice as many people said that they hated mathematics as said that about any other subject.” (Phillip, 2007, p. 257). There is a long-standing effort to get students more interested in and excited about mathematics (i.e., positive affect). Likewise, there is a long-standing effort to help students see classroom mathematics as useful through real-world application problems. “For too many students and teachers, mathematics bears little useful relationship to their world” (Smith & Thompson, 2008, p. 96). I hypothesize that perceptions of usefulness are related to positive attitudes toward mathematics. I describe a study that will examine how usefulness and positive affect are connected. More specifically, this study will address the question, when students see an application problem as useful and realistic, how does it affect their interest in, enjoyment of, and motivation towards mathematics?