Date of Award

Summer 8-7-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Christine D. Thomas

Second Advisor

Pier A. Junor Clarke

Third Advisor

Gwendolyn Benson

Fourth Advisor

Christopher Jett

Fifth Advisor

Joseph Feinberg






Anthonia Ekwuocha

The lecture method has dominated undergraduate mathematics education (Bergsten, 2007). The lecture method promotes passive learning instead of active learning among students, thus contributing to attrition in undergraduate mathematics. Standards-based instruction has been found to be effective in reducing students’ attrition in undergraduate mathematics (Ellington, 2005). College algebra is gatekeeper for higher undergraduate mathematics courses (Thiel, Peterman & Brown, 2008). Research indicates that if college algebra is taught with standards-based teaching strategies, it will help reduce students’ attrition and encourage more students to take higher level mathematics courses (Burmeister, Kenney, & Nice, 1996). Standards-based instructional strategies include but are not limited to real life applications, cooperative learning, proper use of technology, implementation of writing, multiple approaches, connection with other experiences, and experiential teaching (American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC), 2006).

Despite all effort to improve undergraduate mathematics instruction, there are still limited empirical studies on standards-based instruction in college algebra. Research in undergraduate mathematics education is a new field of study (Brown & Murphy, 2000). Research reported that overall students’ attrition in college algebra could be as high as 41% in a community college (Owens, 2003). This high attrition rate in college algebra may impact students’ continuation in higher mathematics courses and their interest in the field of mathematics. As a result more research efforts must be focused on ways to improve college algebra instruction. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore the teaching practices of a college algebra teacher who adopts standards-based techniques in his classroom. The research questions that guided the study were: What teaching practices are used in the mathematics classroom of a college algebra teacher? How are the teaching practices of the teacher aligned with the characteristics of standards-based instruction?

The participant of the study was a college algebra teacher who was identified as a standards-based teacher. The teaching practices of the teacher were analyzed and presented using a qualitative single case study method. Data were collected from interviews with the teacher, classroom observations, and artifacts. The research project was drawn from the frameworks of culturally relevant pedagogy theory, symbolic interaction theory, experiential teaching theory, and standards-based instruction.

Analysis of the data showed that the teaching practices of the participant were mathematical communication, proper use of technology in instruction and assessment, building mathematical connections, multiple representations, motivating students to learn mathematics, and repetition of key terms. The teaching practices aligned with the characteristics of standards-based instruction. Findings from the study suggest that standards-based instruction strategies should be used in undergraduate mathematics education, especially in teaching college algebra to alleviate some of the problems. Moreover, university administrators at college level should organize workshops and professional development about standards-based instruction strategies for their teachers.