Now showing 1 - 10 of 48
  • Publication
    An attitudinal snapshot of pre-service secondary mathematics teachers
    (Western Australian Institute for Educational Research, 2020-02-08) ; ; ; ;
    A teacher’s attitude towards a subject has a major influence on their learning and subsequent teaching of that subject. This has a knock-on effect on the development of their own students’ attitudes. However, despite such importance there has been a dearth of research in this area, particularly in relation to the attitudes of pre-service secondary teachers of mathematics. Thus, the aim of this study is to quantify the attitudes of this cohort of teachers at the beginning of their initial teacher education (ITE) program. The participants in the study are pre-service teacher cohorts (N = 98) from four Irish universities who are enrolled in a postgraduate ITE program, known as the Professional Master of Education (PME). Six sub-scales of the overall Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitudes Scales (FSMAS) were used to gain a quantitative measure of participants’ attitudes towards the subject as they embarked on their ITE. The FSMAS scores were strongly positive, although the results of the mathematics anxiety and teacher subscales were notably lower in comparison to the others. Further analysis was carried out to identify affecting factors, particularly in relation to these two low-ranking subscales.
  • Publication
    "When a number moves across it changes its sign" - Teachers' conceptual understanding of algebra
    Algebra has long been identified as an area of difficulty in the teaching and learning of mathematics. In Ireland such difficulties have traditionally been attributed to an over reliance on transformational-based activities when teaching the domain (Prendergast & O’Donoghue, 2014). These activities place a high emphasis on manipulating expressions and equations in a rote fashion, without a sound conceptual understanding of algebraic concepts. To addresses this issue a reformed algebra strand was introduced to all secondary schools in September 2011. In a shift from the transformational-based approach, the reformed strand followed the lead of several countries and advocated a functions-based approach to teaching the domain. This functions-based approach reflects inquiry methods through which students take responsibility when dealing with new problems, rather than rehearsing known procedures. However, a study by Prendergast and Treacy (2018) found that not all teachers had successfully adopted the functions-based approach in their own teaching. Through teacher interviews a number of reasons were offered into why the reformed strand had not been implemented as intended
  • Publication
    Students' sense of belonging to mathematics in the secondary-tertiary transition
    (International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, 2018-07-08) ; ; ; ; ; ;
    A “sense of belonging to math” (SBM) scale has been shown to predict undergraduate mathematics students’ intent to study mathematics in the future. In this study, we use the scale to examine the impact of the transition from secondary school to university on 33 first year undergraduate students’ SBM. Using a cluster analysis, we identify three clusters: students in both Cluster 1 (n=21) and Cluster 2 (n=9) display a strong SBM at secondary school. Following the transition, those in Cluster 1 exhibit a decrease in SBM, while those in Cluster 2 show only a marginal decrease. Students in Cluster 3 (n=3) show a strong increase in their SBM, but they started with the lowest SBM initially. From an analysis of interviews with seven of the students, factors that might impact students’ SBM during the transition are discussed.
  • Publication
    What elements of a community help undergraduates gain confidence?
    Women's underrepresentation in the field of physics continues to be an issue, in part because of the perceptions women may have about their abilities to study physics. In this paper, we will study undergraduate students' perceptions about the required level of competence for studying physics, and how these perceptions may change due to participation in spaces that support competence building. We use a mixed methods approach to look at survey responses collected from students on the Foundations of physics course at University College Dublin, and interviews with physics undergraduate facilitators of an informal program that explore the overlaps of physics and music. We hypothesise, that female students perceive the required level of competence to study physics to be higher than male students. We propose that providing formal and informal spaces that support competence building will improve undergraduate students' perceptions of their competence to study physics.
  • Publication
    Investigating the longitudinal impact of participating in school-based lesson study on mathematics teachers' professional community
    (Institute of Education, Dublin City University, 2019-10-11) ; ;
    Teacher professional communities have recently figured among the most influential factors for supporting teachers in their learning and in enacting educational change in schools. While lesson study has been documented as a means to support the development of such communities, previous studies have not addressed the sustainability of the professional communities which emerge. In this study, we follow-up with six mathematics teachers from two post-primary schools in the Republic of Ireland, who engaged in school-based lesson study in 2012/13, in order to investigate the long-term impact on their teacher professional community. Our findings indicate that the mathematics teachers in both schools had developed a predominantly mature professional community during their participation in lesson study in 2012/13. Moreover, we find that six years on, the community has been sustained in one school and further strengthened in the other. These findings suggest that lesson study may be a viable model to develop and sustain mathematics teachers’ professional communities in the long-term.
  • Publication
    Developing Problem-solving Approaches to Teaching: Theory and Practice
    George Polya’s book, How to solve it (1945), is likely to have been one of the first books to focus on building students’ skills as problem solvers. Polya, a Hungarian professor of mathematics, realised that it was not sufficient that his students knew their mathematical facts--they also needed to have a relational understanding of the subject in order to use mathematics as a tool. While Polya’s book has provided much food for thought for mathematics educators at all levels throughout the decades, the legacy of his writing is in defining a heuristic or framework for students to solve problems.
  • Publication
    Maths Sparks: Investigating the impact of outreach on pupils' attitudes towards mathematics
    In this article, we examine the impact of participating in a series of mathematics workshops on secondary-school pupils' attitudes towards mathematics. A six-week program, entitled 'Maths Sparks', was run by a team of lecturers and students at a research-intensive university in the Republic of Ireland. The outreach series aimed to promote mathematics to pupils from schools designated as socio-economically disadvantaged (DEIS - Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), who are less likely to study mathematics at higher level than their non-DEIS counterparts (Smyth et al. 2015). Sixty-two pupils participated in the research and data was generated through pre-post questionnaires based on the Fennema-Sherman (1976) framework of Attitudes to Mathematics. Findings suggest that while male students initially had more positive attitudes towards mathematics, there was a narrowing in this gender gap across several factors on the Fennema-Sherman scale as a result of participation in the programme. The most prominent of these features were: 'Attitudes towards success in mathematics' and 'Motivation towards mathematics'. Findings suggest that the construct and delivery of this Mathematics outreach programme, involving undergraduate students and academic staff, may provide a useful structure in benefitting pupils' attitudes towards mathematics and encouraging their study of the subject.
  • Publication
    Islands in the stream: Encouraging teacher collaboration in an otherwise solitary profession
    Keynote presentation at WALS (World Association of Lesson Study) 2019 conference
  • Publication
    Maths Sparks: Developing Community and Widening Participation
    Improving the engagement of university students in wider issues of teaching and learning is now an important driver in higher education. Additionally, widening the participation of those who access higher education is a matter of increasing prominence. In this paper we report on a case study initiative addressing both of these issues in a university mathematics department. Staff and university students collaborated in developing a series of mathematics workshops, called Maths Sparks, for secondary school pupils from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. We report on the development of student-staff community as a result of establishing this programme and discuss the increased engagement and motivation of both university students and secondary pupils participating in the series of activity-based workshops.
  • Publication
    Progress made on women in science - but much still to do
    (Friends of Europe, 2017-03)
    Europe ’s World The academic fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known as STEM – are becoming progressively more important to economies around the globe. But while the number of people working in STEM is increasing, women are still significantly under-represented, and this gender disparity becomes more and more prominent at senior levels.