Mathematical creativity and school mathematics: Indicators of mathematical creativity in middle school students

Date of Completion

January 2005


Education, Mathematics|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Vocational




As students progress through the educational system their interest in mathematics diminishes. Yet there is an ever increasing need within the workforce for individuals who possess talent in mathematics. The literature suggests that mathematical talent is most often measured by speed and accuracy of a student's computation with little emphasis on problem solving and pattern finding and no opportunities for students to work on rich mathematical tasks that require divergent thinking. Such an approach limits the use of creativity in the classroom and reduces mathematics to a set of skills to master and rules to memorize. Doing so causes many children's natural curiosity and enthusiasm for mathematics to disappear as they get older. Keeping students interested and engaged in mathematics by recognizing and valuing their mathematical creativity may reverse this tendency. ^ The identification of creative potential is challenging. Prior research into the identification of mathematical creativity has focused on the development of measurement instruments. Scoring of these instruments is time consuming and subject to scorer interpretation due to the variety of possible responses. Thus, their use in schools has been very limited, if used at all, since their creation. This study seeks a simpler means to obtain indicators of creative potential in mathematics. Existing instruments, the Creative Ability in Mathematics Test, the Connecticut Mastery Tests, the Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitude Scales, What Kind of Person are You? from the Khatena-Torrance Creative Perception Index and the Scales for Rating the Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students were used to conduct a standard multiple regression analysis. This analysis explored the relationship between mathematical creativity and mathematical achievement, attitude towards mathematics, self-perception of creative ability, gender and teacher perception of mathematical talent and creative ability. Data were gathered from 89 seventh graders in a suburban Connecticut school. The regression model predicted 35% of the variance in mathematical creativity scores. Mathematical achievement was the strongest predictor accounting for 23% of the variance. Student attitudes towards mathematics, self-perception of their own creative ability and gender contributed the remaining 12% of variance. Interpretation of the relative importance of the independent variables was complicated by correlations between them. ^