Karen Marrongelle

Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Mathematics Education


Mathematics and Statistics

Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 335 pages)


Nontraditional college students -- Attitudes, Adult learning -- Attitudes, Mathematics -- Study and teaching (Higher)




This study explores adult returning students' mathematical experience and ways of thinking prior to enrolling in a community college arithmetic review course. It further examines one student's experience of the course. The first part of the study documents everyday activities adult students perceive as mathematical using Bishop's pan-cultural mathematical activities (Bishop, 1994), and queries students' prior experience with mathematics in school. The second part examines students' ways of thinking about proportion prior to instruction, using a framework developed from previous research (e.g., Lamon, 1993). The third part of the study examines the interaction between informal ways of thinking about mathematics that adult students bring to school and the mathematics they encounter in the classroom. Findings include: (1) Adult students view a variety of activities from their everyday lives as mathematical, (2) adult students' reasoning about proportional situations varies along a developmental trajectory described in previous research on proportional reasoning conducted with younger students, and (3) one student's experience in the arithmetic review course illustrates that she typically suppressed contextual ways of reasoning about problems she brought to the course and, when she did share prior experience, it was not leveraged to support the development of her and other students' mathematical understanding. These findings suggest that adult students' experience of everyday mathematics and ways of thinking about proportion should be the foundation that support students as they build upon informal ways of thinking toward the more formal ways of reasoning expected in school.

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