Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

S. Asli Özgün-Koca


Most of the current mathematics education focuses on procedures and pays very little attention to conceptual understanding in many classrooms. NCTM (2000) called for improving students’ understanding to help improve their achievement. To help prepare students for the future, they need to be taught to value mathematics and realize that it is relevant to their lives. Students need to use their mathematical knowledge to solve real life problems. This can’t be achieved by focusing only on the procedures and expecting students to understand how to apply it to real life. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of using authentic problem solving on students’ achievement and attitude while studying exponential functions.

In order to achieve this purpose, a mixed design was used in the study. Two groups of Algebra 1 students from two different schools were part of the study; one group was taught exponential functions using the traditional method, while the other group used authentic problem solving to learn the unit. Pre- and post-tests, quizzes, entry tickets, mathematical reflections, and pre- and post-attitude surveys were used to obtain quantitative data; students’ reflections, observations, and interviews were used to obtain qualitative data.

The quantitative data revealed that, before the unit, there was no significant difference between the two groups, and after the study, there was a significant difference in favor of the experimental group. The qualitative data revealed that the students in the experimental group were more positively affected by the teaching method than the students in the control group. Student attitude was significantly higher in before and after the study in favor of the control group, but the mean improvement in the experimental group was higher than the control group. The qualitative data also revealed that students in the experimental group improved their attitude more than those in the control group.

Using authentic problem solving helped students achieve more than the traditional teaching method did. Students’ attitudes were positively affected by using authentic problem solving. Further research is recommended to determine the impact of using authentic problem solving to teach other mathematics topics.