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Techniques Motivating Project Directed Mathematics

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering and Math Potpouri

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1184.1 - 13.1184.29



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Paper Authors


John Schmeelk Virginia Commonwealth University

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Dr. John Schmeelk is a Professor of Mathematics at Virginia Commonwealth University at the Doha, Qatar branch campus

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Jean Hodges VCU\Qatar Campus

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Ms. Jean Hodges is an Assistant Professor in English at Virginia Commonwealth University at the Doha, Qatar branch campus.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



This study is the third in a series examining ways to motivate learning of contemporary mathematics among design students at Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar (VCUQ).

In the first study the authors examined the learning preferences work of Ricki Linksman, founder of the National Reading Diagnostic Institute in the United States and author of How to Learn Anything Quickly. They theorized that female MATH 131 students at VCUQ were probably visual and tactile right-brained learners based on their artistic interests in three design majors and the characteristics of these types of learning preferences. Based on these learning preferences, the authors then suggested effective teaching strategies for motivating the students to master the concepts in this contemporary math course by relating the concepts to their culture and to interior, graphic, or fashion design fields.

A follow-up study took the previous work one step farther by testing the learning preferences of female students in two VCUQ MATH 131 classes in Fall 2006 through Spring 2007 semesters and examining the effectiveness of projects upon their concept mastery (project-directed mathematics). Documenting the students’ preferences revealed that over 65 percent were visual or tactile learners and, surprisingly, they were fairly evenly distributed between right-brained and left-brained preferences. The students found sample projects helpful, but their evaluations of creating their own projects were mixed.

The current study builds on the authors’ earlier hypothesis that project-directed mathematics will facilitate better learning than will traditional lectures and problem-solving assignments in three primary ways: First, it continues tracking the students’ “super-links” (or fastest, most effective modes of learning) by adding data from the Fall 2007 and Spring 2008 Semesters. Next, it continues observing the effectiveness of using projects as both samples and assignments in MATH 131. Finally, it examines techniques for effectively motivating project-directed mathematics.

The techniques implemented to motivate projects are focused on the design of both individual and group activities that engage students in high-level thinking and mathematical problem- solving. As a team, the professor and students discuss deeper mathematical properties illustrated within the students’ projects. Because they are design majors, the students are very motivated to create unique projects that draw upon their artistic talent and creativity. Combined with a “mathematical spin” required by the professor, these projects offer a pilot for mathematical understanding. Preliminary results indicate that the project-directed approach is much more successful than the traditional lecture and problem-solving techniques because students are eager both to collaborate with their peers and professor and to compete against each other in developing the most creative projects.

Schmeelk, J., & Hodges, J. (2008, June), Techniques Motivating Project Directed Mathematics Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3108

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