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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mathematics and Middle School Students of Mexican Descent: The Effects of Thematically Intergrated Instruction


This paper reports the effects of thematically integrated mathematics instruction on achievement, attitudes, and motivation in mathematics among middle school students of Mexican descent. A school-university collaborative effort led to the development and testing of a thematic approach undertaken as a means of contextualizing instruction for students considered to be at risk for school failure. Instruction relied heavily on small collaborative learning groups and on hands-on activities designed to help students make real-world sense of mathematical concepts. As hypothesized, experimental and control students made equivalent gains in computational skills, but experimental students (who received thematic instruction) surpassed controls in achievement on mathematical concepts and applications. The two programs did not have a differential effect on students' attitudes toward mathematics or self-perceptions of motivation in mathematics, but motivational variables did predict achievement outcomes for both groups. Issues related to the opportunity to learn the full range of mathematics content of the curriculum within a thematic approach are examined.

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