A comparison of skills in the transition from secondary to university mathematics.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
In this study two groups of first year university mathematics students were qualitatively assessed for differences in task specific knowledge, understanding and problem solving skills. Individual interviews were conducted with 12 first year university students who obtained between 40% and 49% in a secondary school mathematics examination and nine first year university students who obtained between 85% and 89% in the same examination. These interviews took place after completion of two separate written tasks, one in calculus and the other in matrix methods. Results indicated that students in the group with the lower marks were more sensitive to institutional transition factors and exhibited isolated knowledge reinforced by a surface (or reproductive) approach to learning. The students with the higher marks used intuitive knowledge in problem solving and possessed a highly integrated knowledge base reinforced by a deep-achieving approach to learning. Differences in characteristics were consistent between the two groups for both tasks.