ACMS 2017: Cultivating Mathematical Affections through Engagement in Service-Learning

Here is some information on my talk at the 21st ACMS Conference (2017) at Charleston Southern University.


Why should students value mathematics? While extensive research exists on developing the cognitive ability of students, very little research has examined how to cultivate the affections of students for mathematics. The phrase “mathematical affections” is a play on the affective domain of learning as well as on the general notion of care towards something. Mathematical affections are more than a respect for the utility of the subject; the term is much broader and includes aesthetic features as well as habits of mind and attitude.

This paper will analyze the findings from a research project exploring the impact of service-learning on the cultivation of mathematical affections in students. This was a qualitative case study of high school students who recently completed a service-learning project in their mathematics course. Data was gathered from student interviews, reflection journals, and field observations. The framework for the analysis follows the definition of “productive disposition” offered by the National Research Council (2001) as well as the concept of formative “cultural liturgies” offered by the philosopher James K.A. Smith (2009).

The major themes that emerge from the data indicate that through service-learning students see math as sensible, useful, and worthwhile. This supports the potential of service-learning as a pedagogical tool that can be utilized to develop a productive disposition in students; addressing at a practical level how the affective objectives of national policy documents can be achieved.


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Goldin, G.A. (2002). Affect, meta-affect, and mathematical belief structures. In G.C. Leder, E. Pehkonen, & G. Törner (Eds.),  Beliefs: a hidden variable in mathematics education? Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 59-72.

Hadlock, C. R. (2005). Mathematics in service to the community: Concepts and models for service-learning in the mathematical sciences (No. 66). Mathematical Association of America.

Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S., & Masia, B.B. (1964). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook II. Affective Domain. New York: Longman.

National Research Council (2001). Adding it up: Helping children learn mathematics. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.

Smith, J.K.A. (2009). Desiring the kingdom: Worship, worldview, and cultural formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Wilkerson, J. (2015). Cultivating Mathematical Affections: The Influence of Christian Faith on Mathematics Pedagogy. In Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 67(2), 111-123.


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