In this paper, we present an exploratory study on how a liberal-arts course about the culture and history of mathematics influenced the mathematics beliefs of medical university students in Taiwan. This study used a single-group pretest-posttest design. The research tools of this study included: (1) a liberal-arts mathematics course with an emphasis on history and culture, and (2) a 20-question Likert-scale questionnaire used in the pre-test and the post-test. The questions were separated into two dimensions, aiming to investigate students’ beliefs about the nature and values of mathematics. A total of 100 students took the pre-test, participated in the teaching experiment, and finally took the post-test. In the teaching experiment course, titled “Mathematical Thinking in the Multicultural Contexts”, students were exposed to mathematical topics presented in their historical contexts. There were also examples of distinct approaches to similar problems by scholars in different civilisations, such as comparing Liu Hui’s work and Euclid’s Elements. Students were also required to make artistic creations related to mathematics. The results showed that part of the students’ beliefs did change. In the dimension of the nature of mathematics, after taking the course, the students were more prone to believe that “generalisation” was a method of thinking in mathematics; however, the results also revealed that the course did not clarify the difference between the “context of justification” and the “context of discovery” for students. As for the values of mathematics, students were more prone to believe that “sensibility to beauty” and “creativity” were important values of mathematics.
|Taiwan Journal of Mathematics Education
|Published - 2015