Balancing the scales of confidence: computers in early undergraduate mathematics learning

Cretchley, Patricia C. and Harman, Christopher J. (2001) Balancing the scales of confidence: computers in early undergraduate mathematics learning. Quaestiones Mathematicae (Supple). pp. 17-25. ISSN 1607-3606


This paper explores influences that attitudes to mathematics and computing can have in determining the effectiveness of introducing technology to introductory undergraduate mathematics education. The surprisingly weak correlation between confidence in mathematics and confidence in using computers, is confirmed. It is argued that the implications present both a challenge and an opportunity for educators who seek to use technology effectively for the learning of mathematics. In particular, the attitudes and reactions to personal experience of using technology for the learning of mathematics of four distinct groups of students are compared: those who are confident in both the learning of mathematics and their ability to use computers, those who are not confident about either, and those who are confident about one but not the other. The study uses data collected from a sample of 184 first-year students in a typical Australian first-year mathematics course by a team including the authors, for research into the effects of introducing the use of scientific software into the learning experience of early undergraduate mathematics students. An Appendix includes the scales that were developed to measure four factors: confidence in mathematics, confidence in the use of computers, attitudes towards technology in the learning of mathematics, and reaction to personal experience of use of software for learning mathematics. They demonstrate good internal consistency reliability and high test-retest stability, and may be of use in any learning context where mathematics students interact with computers.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Maths and Computing
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:51
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:40
Uncontrolled Keywords: mathematics; computers; technology; learning; attitudes; undergraduates; student confidence
Fields of Research : 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130306 Educational Technology and Computing
13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130208 Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130309 Learning Sciences
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9301 Learner and Learning > 930103 Learner Development

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