The importance of developing a metric to classify student experience in mathematics within the framework of intensive block teaching
The number of students enrolling in higher level mathematics units at high school have been in decline for a number of years. This is of particular concern when they then continue their studies within undergraduate STEM disciplines at University, leading academics to search for better methods to support mathematical instruction. The aim of this study was to investigate the development of a simple and robust tool to classify students’ mathematical capacity within a time compressed block teaching environment. One hundred and seventy-six first year students completed a survey reflecting on their level of comfort, competence, and enjoyment of mathematics, including their highest level of previous study in the discipline. Students also completed a short quiz to establish a pre-learning numeracy skill baseline. The survey provided data for development of the metric, from which, three groups ranked on their mathematical ability (low, medium and high) were identified which were then matched with scores arising from their baseline assessment. The classification grouping was uniform across all four offerings of the mathematics unit taught and matched with common baseline assessment scores. The importance of this tool shows both reliability and robustness in being able to identify students likely to have difficulty in studying undergraduate mathematics especially within the context of the time limited intensive block teaching, permitting early intervention to help students at risk of failure to succeed.
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