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Integrating Writing with Contemporary Mathematics to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Using Computers, Software, and Writing to Improve Mathematical Understanding

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Page Count


Page Numbers

25.815.1 - 25.815.31



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Paper Authors


N. Jean Hodges Virginia Commonwealth University, Qatar

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N. Jean Hodges earned a master's of science degree in technical communication at North Carolina State University and taught writing and business courses at several colleges. Since 2004, she has been an Assistant Professor of writing at Virginia Commonwealth University’s branch campus in Doha, Qatar (VCUQatar). She has collaborated with Dr. John Schmeelk, professor of mathematics at VCUQatar, in ongoing educational research on contemporary mathematics courses, most recently investigating uses of writing in the mathematics class. In addition to publications and presentations at annual ASEE conferences, they have published and co-presented at meetings of the Middle East Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Computing (METSMaC) in Abu Dhabi and at the Second International Congress of Educational Research in Antalya, Turkey.

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INTEGRATING WRITING WITH CONTEMPORARY MATHEMATICS TO DEVELOP CRITICAL THINKING SKILLSGlobalization, compounded by the rapid societal evolution being propelled by advancingtechnology, is increasing the necessity for astute critical thinking skills, yet many students arriveat the university with these skills underdeveloped. Such higher-level thinking involves analyzing,evaluating, and creating (the topmost three levels of thinking in Bloom’s Taxonomy of theCognitive Domain revised by Anderson in 2001). Several researchers in the late 1990s into the2000s have shown that processing new information using these thinking skills increases students’information retention. In addition, thinking critically helps prepare students to become successfulglobal citizens because they can make the decisions and solve the problems of modern life moreastutely, having both the knowledge retained and the thinking skills developed to do so.One teaching strategy shown by researchers since the 1960s and 1970s to be an effectivelearning and thinking tool is writing. Writing enables the writer to capture otherwise randomthoughts by placing them on a writing surface where they become concrete and thus more readilyexamined and manipulated. Consequently, writing should be an effective tool for enabling mathstudents to retain the mathematical principles being developed in the classroom as well as foraiding them to improve their critical thinking abilities needed for applying their mathematicalunderstandings to problems of the modern world.By incorporating writing that emphasizes critical thinking into the math classroom, this studyseeks an answer to two questions: (1) how can mathematics professors, who usually are non-writing specialists, incorporate writing into the math class comfortably and effectively and(2) how can writing strategies used within math courses enhance both students’ knowledgeretention and their critical thinking abilities? A variety of carefully tailored writing tools (suchas three-minute recollection papers and targeted journal assignments, among others) and relatedmaterials are used in several Contemporary Mathematics university classes both to reinforce themath principles and to develop students’ critical thinking. Pre-tests and post-tests of students’critical thinking ability and attitudinal surveys are used to determine effectiveness of the tailoredwriting strategies.WORD COUNT: 334 (minus title)

Hodges, N. J. (2012, June), Integrating Writing with Contemporary Mathematics to Develop Critical Thinking Skills Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21572

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