The University of Montana
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Technical report #34/2008

Does interdisciplinary instruction raise students' interest in mathematics and the subjects of the natural sciences

Claus Michelsen
Centre for Science and Mathematics Education
University of Southern Denmark

Bharath Sriraman
Dept. of Mathematical Sciences
The University of Montana


Abstract

This paper presents the research project IFUN1 - Interest and Interdisciplinary Instruction in Science2 and Mathematics. The aim of the project was to investigate on how upper secondary students’ interest in the subjects of mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology might be improved by increased instructional interplay and integration between the subjects. The individual student’s interests in interdisciplinary domains of mathematics and science are studied within a three-dimensional framework: (i) The student’s interest in a particular interdisciplinary domain of mathematics and science. (ii) The characteristics of a specific learning setting that causes a situational interest in the topic and promotes and supports a shift from catching interest to holding interest (iii) The student’s affiliation with and valuation of mathematics and science. We present the main results from an interest study conducted with a 147 item Likert questionnaire administered to 255 grade 11 students. The results of the study show that students have a high interest in mathematics and are positive towards interdisciplinary instruction. When it comes to the individual student’s affiliation with and valuation of mathematics and science, the study shows that future studies and careers play an important role. We conclude that the results indicate it is possible to expand interest in one subject to another subject through interdisciplinary instruction.

Keywords: affect; IFUN; interdisciplinarity; mathematics and science instruction; models of interest; Southern Denmark

AMS Subject Classification: 97

Download Technical Report: fdf (430 KB)

Pre-print of paper accepted in ZDM- The International Journal on Mathematics Education, vol.41, nos.1&2, xx-xx

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1 The acronym IFUN refers to Interesse og Fagoverskrindende Undervisning i Naturvidenskab and Interesse und Fächerübergreifender Unterricht in den Naturwisseschaften which is Danish and German respectively for Interest and Interdisciplinary Instruction in Science and Mathematics.
2We use the term science as a common denominator for the subjects of physics, chemistry and biology.