"Much palaver about greater than zero and such stuff" – First year engineering students’ recognition of university mathematics
2016 (English)In: International Journal of Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education, ISSN 2198-9753, 1-39 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Research under the key word ‘secondary-tertiary transition problem’ in mathematics education points to a range of difficulties students face when passing from learning mathematics at school to attending undergraduate mathematics courses. One of these problems concerns the change in criteria for what counts as a legitimate mathematical activity. Based on this observation, the aim of this study is to investigate the extent to which students enrolled in undergraduate mathematics courses are aware of such changes in criteria and how their reflective recognition relates to their academic success. The main body of empirical data comprises interviews with 60 undergraduate students, who were enrolled in different engineering programmes at two Swedish universities and attended compulsory mathematics courses. These interview data are complemented by the grades achieved by these students on all mathematics courses during their first year of enrolment. A group of their lecturers were also interviewed. In order to explore what counts as a legitimate mathematical activity, participants were presented with excerpts from different mathematics textbooks and asked which of these they would describe as more or less mathematical and why. As theoretical resources we selectively employ notions by means of which Bernstein conceptualised pedagogic discourse, elements of Halliday and Hasan’s social semiotics, and Eco’s idea of the model reader. The investigation shows that students focus on a considerably wide range of aspects of mathematics texts by which they (mis)recognise the specificity of the discourse, and how this relates to their academic success. The study not only provides a differentiated picture of students’ reflective recognition of levels of rigour, abstraction and formalisation in mathematics, but also offers a methodological contribution.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. 1-39 p.
School-university transition, Undergraduate mathematics, Engineering students, Mathematical rigour, Bernstein, Recognition rule
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-130698DOI: 10.1007/s40753-016-0037-yOAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-130698DiVA: diva2:954162
ProjectsThe transition from school mathematics to university mathematics: an integrated study of a cultural gap
FunderSwedish Research Council