Preparation of students for tertiary studies requiring mathematics

S. R. Belward, D. F. T. Mullamphy, W. W. Read, G. E. Sneddon


Mathematics education in Queensland seems to be on a never-ending downwards spiral. This is the opinion of the majority of the staff in the School of Maths and Physics at James Cook University. Over recent years the staff in our School have struggled to output students at a standard third year tertiary mathematics level. There are two reasons for this: firstly the intake is from a less well prepared student body and secondly, perhaps more critically, the indicators used to measure the ability of secondary school leavers are most often useless. It is at this lower end where decisions about which subjects a student is to pursue are paramount, both in the short term (success in a semester) and the long term (completion of a degree). In this article we detail what we think is lacking in the preparation of students and demonstrate this by presenting the results of a case study centred on a selection of first year students at James Cook University. We also discuss some of the approaches we have tried in an attempt to overcome these difficulties.

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ANZIAM Journal, ISSN 1446-8735, copyright Australian Mathematical Society.