A Teachers' Guide to Improving Students' Creative Thinking in Mathematics

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Judith Collison


A teacher's approach to mathematics instruction greatly influences students' learning. To help children develop positive "mathematical self-esteem", become competent in mathematics, and deal with the importance of mathematics in today's world, I propose infusing more creativity into the teaching and learning of the subject. The key factor in this approach is self-actualization, or achieving one's potential. It is the fundamental part of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers theories, and makes creativity accessible to everyone. Just as all people have the potential to be creative, everybody has the ability to succeed in mathematics. Neither is restricted to a select group of particularly talented people. Through self-actualization, anyone can enhance her creativity, and by increasing one's creativity, a person can improve her "mathematical self-esteem". Educators need to take a creative approach to their mathematics teaching, making use of all of their abilities, taking risks, experimenting, and trying new things. Mathematics must be presented as a multi-faceted subject with components and applications for everyone. Teachers need to foster students' discovery of their own mathematical abilities in the context of a safe classroom atmosphere that encourages risk taking. Pupils should be taught mathematics through their different intelligences to help them realize the various ways of knowing and understanding the subject. Using such instructional methods can assist all students in finding success in mathematics. The examples in this curriculum development project illustrate such an approach for teachers and include a unit on division, an integrated activity based on a children's story, and an annotated list of children's books containing mathematical concepts. Teachers and students who make use of their creative abilities in mathematics may also see benefits in other areas. Once pupils develop their creative thinking in mathematics and become more confident, they should be encouraged to transfer those skills and attitudes to other contexts. Similarly, teachers should apply the creative methods used in mathematics instruction to the other subjects they teach. Thus, the positive results of such an approach extend beyond the mathematical classroom for both teacher and student.


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