Mathematical enculturation

Jacob Perrenet and Ruurd Taconis have written an article called Mathematical enculturation from the students’ perspective: shifts in problem-solving beliefs and behaviour during the bachelor programme. The article was published online in Educational Studies in Mathematics on Tuesday, and it is an Open Access article, so it is freely available to anyone! Here is the article abstract:

This study investigates the changes in mathematical problem-solving beliefs and behaviour of mathematics students during the years after entering university. Novice bachelor students fill in a questionnaire about their problem-solving beliefs and behaviour. At the end of their bachelor programme, as experienced bachelor students, they again fill in the questionnaire. As an educational exercise in academic reflection, they have to explain their individual shifts in beliefs, if any. Significant shifts for the group as a whole are reported, such as the growth of attention to metacognitive aspects in problem-solving or the growth of the belief that problem-solving is not only routine but has many productive aspects. On the one hand, the changes in beliefs and behaviour are mostly towards their teachers’ beliefs and behaviour, which were measured using the same questionnaire. On the other hand, students show aspects of the development of an individual problem-solving style. The students explain the shifts mainly by the specific nature of the mathematics problems encountered at university compared to secondary school mathematics problems. This study was carried out in the theoretical framework of learning as enculturation. Apparently, secondary mathematics education does not quite succeed in showing an authentic image of the culture of mathematics concerning problem-solving. This aspect partly explains the low number of students choosing to study mathematics.

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