Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


First Advisor

David Fowler

Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Interdepartmental Area of Educational Studies (Teaching, Curriculum, & Learning), Under the Supervision of Professor David Fowler.
Lincoln, Nebraska: March, 2011

Copyright 2011 Deborah E. Seacrest.


This dissertation is a case study focused on the question, "What are students' attitudes toward school mathematics and toward nonroutine math problems and mathematical games?" It addresses the definitions of some of those terms and then moves on to a literature review that suggests that some change in the curriculum may be needed. In an attempt to begin determining whether nonroutine problems and mathematical games could help, students in two different types of classes were introduced to such problems and games. Their attitudes were assessed using a variety of methods, including observation, interview, and journal writing.

The games and problems used in the classes are explained, along with students' reactions to them. Overall, students reacted very favorably to the activities. Future work may determine how much students learn from the activities and whether the students are able to apply that knowledge to the mathematics more commonly taught in schools. In the interviews, three of the students discussed the difference between the summer class and "actual math," so they may see no immediate connection between nonroutine problems, including games, and the mathematics they learned in a more traditional manner.

A connection is made to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and the Standards for Mathematical Practice are analyzed. The activities done in the summer classes addressed standards at a variety of grade levels, but the focus is on the eight standards for practice. Finally, some conclusions are drawn about what students appeared to learn in the two classes, and some comments are made concerning future work.