Date of Award



© 2017 Jarrod Richards

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Ella Benson

Second Advisor

Peter Harrison

Third Advisor

Carla Scuzzarella


The purpose of this mixed methods individual case study was to investigate why honors math students at a regional vocational high school felt that their mathematical ability decreased over their enrollment at the site under study from the levels they experienced in middle school. This study specifically focused on long term retention of material and motivational forces that can influence the perceptions of honors students’ ability in mathematics. The participants for this study were 23 students who had been in honors math for all four years at this school. A records review was conducted for the 23 participants, which yielded both quantitative and qualitative data. Themes that developed through the records review were expanded through interviews with nine randomly selected members of the sample. Quantitative data compared student semester averages over the four years of enrollment with their corresponding comprehensive semester exam averages. Standardized exam scores from a ninth grade placement test, the tenth grade Massachusetts benchmark exam in math, and the math SAT were also compared. Finally, interviews captured the student voice and expanded upon the themes and data collected through the records review. Four major categories that influenced students’ perceptions of their mathematical ability developed through the data analysis are: 1) personal history/background, 2) retention problems, 3) motivational influences, and 4) suggestions for the future. Through these categories it was found that long term retention of mathematical concepts is difficult for students at this site. This was evidenced by lower comprehensive exam scores compared with semester averages and their own personal narratives shared through the interviews. Participants suggested a handful of strategies the school could implement to help curb this phenomenon. Among those could be a daily/weekly schedule change, the continuation of a math lab course for exam preparation into the eleventh and twelfth grades, and shop week homework that was meaningful. Finally, participants felt that motivation and perception of their ability in mathematics is influenced by the teachers themselves, class structure, and future plans of the students. It was found that teachers who employed hands-on, project-based lessons created atmospheres that increased student engagement. Finally, what a student planned to do in the future had a significant impact on their motivation to do well in school.


Ed.D. Dissertation