A report on a problem based teaching intervention for at-risk service mathematics students at the University of Limerick

Faulkner, Fiona, Gill, Olivia and Hannigan, Ailish (2011) A report on a problem based teaching intervention for at-risk service mathematics students at the University of Limerick. [Conference Proceedings]


There has been a significant decline in the mathematical competency levels of service mathematics students on entrance to the University of Limerick (UL) since 1998. This decline has been partially attributed to the changing student profile of beginning undergraduates to degree programs involving service mathematics. The change in profile which has occurred includes an increase in the number of students entering UL with Ordinary Level Leaving Certificate mathematics as prior knowledge and an increase in those entering as mature students (Faulkner et al 2010). In response to this a problem based teaching intervention was implemented on a randomly selected sample of service mathematics students at the beginning of the academic year 2010/11 to determine if active learning methodologies within traditional tutorials could increase students' chances of passing their end of semester examinations. Students' likelihood of success in their service mathematics module were determined using a mathematical model which took into account each student's diagnostic test performance on entrance to UL and their Leaving Certificate mathematics points. Students who participated in the intervention were arranged in groups of five, each group consisting of students with a variety of mathematical backgrounds. The performance of the students in the end of semester examination who took part in the intervention was then compared against those who were not involved to determine whether the intervention teaching style better catered for the needs of this new profile of student than traditional, 'chalk and talk', whole group teaching methods. Students' performances are analysed quantitatively, in terms of their service mathematics performance, and qualitatively, in terms of their personal impressions of the intervention teaching style. The implications of the intervention for future policy and practice in mathematics education in UL are also discussed.

[thumbnail of NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf]
NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf

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