Students' Experience of Undergraduate Mathematics

This joint, longitudinal, three-year study examined the progress and attitudes of a cohort of undergraduate mathematics students in two English universities. The main aim of the study is to develop a better understanding of why students experience undergraduate mathematics programmes in different ways and why some maintain or develop more positive attitudes than others to the subject. The subsidiary aims are to:

  1. explore the reasons why students elect to study mathematics at university, and why they select or reject a teaching career;
  2. understand what experiences and knowledge contribute to building positive attitudes to students' own competence and to mathematics as an academic discipline;
  3. understand more about the ways in which students' attitudes to mathematics change over the period of the study;
  4. explore the ways in which students feel they are helped and/or hindered in their learning of mathematics;
  5. identify ways in which students can be encouraged to complete a mathematics degree rather than transferring, failing or withdrawing.

Questionnaires will be used to collect data from the whole cohort of undergraduate mathematics students. Individual and focus group interviews will be conducted with a sub-sample of these students and a selection of lecturers and tutors will be interviewed individually.

The study will be informed by, and will contribute to, theories relating to affect (beliefs, attitudes and emotions) and to induction into academic communities of practice.