Enhancing the image of mathematics by association with simple pleasures from real world contexts
Those who market people or products choose their images very carefully. They create positive associations in the public’s mind by photographing their clients with sporting heroes or national icons. In this paper we present a variety of evidence to show that a major and overlooked reason for teachers’ use and choice of real world problems is to take advantage of this ‘halo effect’ to improve students’ attitude towards learning mathematics. Analysis of interviews, reports, and results of a brief survey from teachers of middle secondary school classes indicate that they place a very high priority on positive attitudes and hence both choose and enhance real world problems to promote students’ affective engagement through simple pleasures. Pleasant sensory stimuli, generally non-cognitive and peripheral to the situation to be modelled, are used to promote a positive view of mathematics. This is a good strategy for creating enjoyable and memorable lessons, but there is a danger that it may override more substantive learning goals.
Pierce, R. & Stacey, K. (2006). Enhancing the image of mathematics by association with simple pleasures from real world contexts. (to appear)