Since I was 15 years old, the beauty of mathematics has always captured my attention. I have only experienced mathematics education in a single rigorous way and I have always striven to educate myself and others by engaging in mathematics through different, novel methods. I have been inspired by Dr. Padmanabhan Seshaiyer’s approach to problem-solving as well as the connections that he drew between mathematics and the real world which have motivated this project. In most classrooms, students are often encouraged to solve a problem by a fixed step by step approach. Students usually end up memorizing the steps without really understanding the mathematical concept, and therefore, they forget what they had learned after they complete their exams. Because of the lack of conceptual learning, mathematics fails to excite many students, and the traditional pedagogy does not engage students to think creatively. Perhaps, this is why many students have decided not to pursue a career in the STEM field after taking a calculus course. Therefore, improving the quality of mathematics education has become my personal goal.
This project allowed me to demonstrate that thinking outside of the box in calculus has a positive impact on student success. Through this project, I investigated traditional approaches used in teaching Calculus topics and provided alternate inquiry-based and technology-based approaches to understand the same topics. A second topic that I wanted to investigate is whether gender plays an important role in shaping how students respond to under performance in calculus given societal stereotypes about math competence.