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Middle school student motivational experiences in mathematics: a narrative inquiry




Ramey, Melanie B., author
Makela, Carole J., advisor
O'Donnell-Allen, Cindy, committee member
Wallner, Barbara K., committee member
Wolgemuth, Jennifer R., committee member

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Among middle school students there is thought to be a lack of motivation toward academic achievement in math. Ames expressed this thought in 1990 when mentioning this as one of the biggest problems in education. Motivation to learn and grow through mathematic understanding gives students' purpose. Due to this thought, the focus of the study was to use a narrative inquiry experience-centered approach to gain insight into five middle school students' motivational experiences in mathematics at the end of eighth grade. Each student was interviewed over the course of three different sessions, taking place over a three week span of time. These interviews were conducted during their normal school day at a time deemed by the school as not academically hindering (i.e., a study hall or open block). To help with analysis, interview sessions were audio recorded and transcribed into a basic word processor. Nvivo software was then used to create common themes (or nodes) and connect them to common reference points within each student's interview dialogue. Some themes like intrinsic and extrinsic motivation were created prior to analysis and looked for specifically, while other themes were created after being mentioned by multiple students or in multiple interviews. These added themes were noticeably of value to the participants when speaking of their motivational experiences. Data collection and analysis concluded that personal motivators, both intrinsic and extrinsic, were mentioned by all students over the course of their three interview sessions. Student's desire for accomplishment, esteem, and support were all revealed as common motivators. Interview responses reinforced the view that motivation is supported through small, challenging but achievable goals. Students expressed not wanting simple math problems, they wanted to feel challenged. Therefore, benefits for students may be found if teachers are able to balance mathematics challenges with supporting student's current abilities and academic competence. What was also concluded is a definite relationship between the various levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs being satisfied and an increase in student motivation. Recommendations for research include looking further into whether students are motivated to satisfy their needs, as Maslow suggests, or rather if the act of feeling calm over a need being met creates further motivation toward academic achievement. Future research into this concept would help formulate true connections between satisfied needs and motivational desire.


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middle school
narrative inquiry


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