Flow and its Relationship with the Mathematical Classroom

Morrison, Sipho A. (2020). Flow and its Relationship with the Mathematical Classroom. PhD thesis The Open University.


This thesis contributes to the field of mathematics education. Using a phenomenological approach, I investigated the multi-dimensional model of the flow phenomenon and its interdependence with the mathematics classroom.

Learners of mathematics often have a great enjoyment when carrying out mathematical activities. I contend this experience can be labelled as flow. The flow experience has been described as being in the ‘zone’. Flow refers to the experience of a learner. The learner is totally absorbed in a task to the exclusion of all else with a complete connection and successful outcome.

Flow experiences can improve educational experiences for students in the secondary mathematics classroom by heightening enjoyment, intrinsic motivation and creativity.

Between 2015 and 2016 I carried out an 18-month longitudinal study with a group of secondary students, anticipating how flow can assist positive relationships with mathematics. I recorded, videoed and questioned students’ experiences of flow in the classroom.

I argue first, that from examining how flow occurs in the mathematics classroom, I have constructed an understanding of its appearance to the classroom observer and attended to its perceived benefits. A second contribution of the research is that flow, a quality of experience, positively affects learning in the mathematics classroom, and is a feasible vector for teacher development.

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