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Mindset Matters: Supporting Student Persistence Through The Developmental Mathematics Pipeline


Abstract of the Dissertation

Mindset Matters:

Supporting Student Persistence Through The Developmental Mathematics Pipeline


Tracey Nicole Kiser

Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning

University of California, San Diego, 2016

Christopher P. Halter, Chair

Developmental mathematics is one of the most challenging leaks in the mathematics K-20 pipeline. Few students enter two-year colleges prepared to successfully engage in college-level mathematics classes. Many of students who place into developmental mathematics are low-income, underprepared, students of color, and many are not equipped with the necessary resources to help them persist through college Math placement predicts college success, and being placed into developmental mathematics makes it less possible for students to not only transfer from a community college to a university, but also graduate. Students who place into developmental mathematics can spend most of their community college experience relearning and building on skills they should have mastered in high school.

This study investigated developmental mathematics, strategies for maximizing students’ success in developmental math classes, and the interactions between students’ social and physical environments that mediate their thinking and understanding of developmental mathematics. As a result, multiple methods of data sources (survey, field note observations, focus group interviews, and semi-structured interviews) were used to better understand students and teachers’ characterizations of accelerated developmental mathematics.

The overarching finding in this study was that the mindset of students matter. Mindsets determine students’ decision-making and their motivation as a result of past math experiences. Consequently, students enter college with a lack of confidence in their ability to succeed in developmental mathematics, which affects their ability to transfer to a university and obtain a degree. While students past math experiences did not make them feel like they could grow mathematically, their personal lives motivated them to develop and grow as a whole individual. In-class practice and tutoring support were also instrumental to student success in developmental mathematics. This research study contributed knowledge about students’ learning needs, faculty perceptions of the students’ learning needs, the ways their instructional practices address students’ learning needs by using their voices to shed light on effective strategies for maximizing students’ success in developmental math classes.

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