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.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000122df


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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