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Title: Changes in mathematical culture for post-compulsory mathematics students : the roles of questions and approaches to learning
Author: Darlington, Eleanor
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Since there are insufficient mathematicians to meet economic and educational demands and many well-qualified, successful mathematics students exhibit signs of disaffection, the student experience of undergraduate mathematics is high on the political agenda. Many undergraduates struggle with the school-university transition, which has been associated with students’ prior experiences of mathematics which, at A-level, are regularly criticised for being too easy and too different to undergraduate mathematics. Furthermore, the University of Oxford administers a Mathematics Admissions Test (OxMAT) as a means of identifying those best prepared beyond the limited demands of A-level. Consequently, a study was conducted into the mathematical enculturation of Oxford undergraduates, specifically in terms of examination questions and students’ approaches to learning. Analysis of the Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students (ASSIST) (Tait et al., 1998) revealed the majority of students to adopt strategic approaches to learning (ATLs) in all four year-groups, though the descriptions given by students in interviews of the nature of their ATL highlighted some shortcomings of the ASSIST as the motivation for memorisation appeared to be an important factor. The MATH taxonomy (Smith et al., 1996), revealed that most A-level questions require routine use of procedures, whereas the OxMAT tested a variety of skills from applying familiar mathematics in new situations to justifying and interpreting information to form proofs. This is more in-line with the requirements of undergraduate assessment, although the MATH taxonomy and student interviews revealed that these still allowed for rote memorisation and strategic methods. Thus, the changing nature of mathematics and questions posed to students at the secondary-tertiary interface appears to affect students’ ATLs, though this is not reflected by the ASSIST data.
Supervisor: Watson, Anne Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mathematics education ; assessment ; mathematics ; education ; learning ; transition ; Oxford