Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Leif Fearn, PhD; Nadine Bezuk, PhD; Kendra Sisserson, PhD


academic achievement, algebra, children & youth, education, eighth grade students, mathematics, qualitative, self-concept of ability, southern California, writing prompts


This study examined the effects of three different types of writing prompts, procedural, summary, and self-monitoring, on achievement and self-concept of ability in mathematics. Participants included 81 eighth grade students taking a course designed to prepare students for algebra in the ninth grade in a large urban school district in Southern California. Data were gathered using a quasi-experimental design, teacher-researcher created pre-and post-tests, the Minnesota Mathematics Attitude Inventory, teacher field notes, student responses to prompts, and individual and group interviews. Controlling for demographic and other variables identified in the study, simultaneous regression analysis revealed that only summary writing had a significant positive association at the .05 significance level on achievement and no type of prompt was associated with changes in self-concept of ability. Self-concept of ability, however, was found to have a small, positive association with achievement gain. Qualitative analysis revealed several themes, including resistance to writing, elaboration, writing as a reference, grading student writing, the inability to express thoughts when understanding is limited, and writing and remembering. Student self-reports revealed complex relationships between content, instruction, achievement, attitude, and writing. While procedural prompts were preferred by most students, all three types of prompts were found useful by students at different times during the study. The teacher-researcher concluded that the nature of the content and the level of students' understanding should be considered when selecting the type of writing prompt to complement instruction in mathematics at any given time. Different types of prompts "fit" the content and level of students' understanding better than others. Prompts must be purposefully selected to focus students' attention on the type(s) and level of knowledge required by the curriculum. In addition, students who are struggling with understanding a concept or mastering a skill may benefit more from being able to identify and express their understanding and confusions through self-monitoring than through more informational types of writing. Instruction in and use of a variety of carefully selected prompts in mathematics may give students and teachers an effective alternative to assigning more problems without increasing teacher workload and increasing opportunities for students to gain access to the content.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access