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Students' beliefs about the nature of mathematics in the context of online homework

Willhoite, Olivia
It has been reported in the mathematics education literature that many students hold unproductive beliefs about the nature of mathematics, which in turn can negatively affect their mathematics achievement. We do not know, however, how online homework affects students' beliefs about the nature of mathematics or their ability to do mathematics. Because of the growing popularity of online homework and the resources which are offered with it (e.g. multiple tries, hints, 'see similar example' features), it is important to explore whether such resources reinforce unproductive beliefs about mathematics, or if they help to alleviate such beliefs. This study seeks to explore what students believe about the nature of mathematics in the context of online homework, as well as what they believe about mathematics in an outside-of-school context. The latter is of interest because students often see a difference between school mathematics and mathematics in real life. The results of this study, based on quantitative and qualitative survey data coupled with follow-up interviews, indicate that students taking Mathematical Functions and Their Uses (MATH 1483) in the spring 2020 semester hold many productive beliefs about the nature of mathematics both in an online homework and outside-of-school context. Qualitative data from students' short-answer responses on the survey, as well as interview data, give further insight into these beliefs about mathematics in both contexts, and point to ways that online homework platforms can be improved to better support students in developing productive mathematical dispositions.