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An investigation of adult learning of mathematics


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de Little, Catherine 1995 , 'An investigation of adult learning of mathematics', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This case study investigated some of the factors facilitating the learning of mathematics by
adult students. In particular, the research looked into the use of visualising strategies related to work
place experiences, and real-world referents, to facilitate the understanding and use of algebraic
variables, and algebraic notation and conventions. The subjects were six male and two female students,
chosen from the engineering and science students at the Burnie campus of the North West Coast
Regional College of TAFE. They were mature age students, with reasonable work experience, and all
had finished school-based study of mathematics in Grade 10. Four of them had a trade background,
and four had had no formal training since leaving school. Background factors were investigated with a
written questionnaire, followed by an interview. Basic mathematical competence was measured using
the ACER Mathematics Profile Series Operations Test, direct visualising ability was measured with
Betts Questionnaire on Mental Imagery, and spatial ability was measured with the ACER Mathematics
Profile Series Space Test Unit IV. A twenty item algebra test investigated the students' meanings and
use of algebraic letters, and their facility with algebraic notation and conventions. Following error
analysis, the subjects were interviewed to obtain insights into their cognitive processes, particularly
where errors had occurred. Results of analysis of the first three test instruments revealed high levels of
mathematical competence for these students, but no correlation between the two tests of visual and
spatial abilities. The TAFE students' results on the algebra test were consistently higher than results
recorded for similar research with a wide range of students in both England and Australia. Evidence
from interviews suggested that the TAFE stadents' greater facility with algebraic concepts could be
related to their experience of mathematics with real-world referents, both in the workplace and in
exposure to applied mathematics in other subjects. Less able students appeared inhibited in moving
beyond a concrete base to more abstract relationships, but the able students successfully transcended
their real-world referents and were able to interpret and manipulate variables logically and consistently.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:de Little, Catherine
Keywords: Adult learning, Mathematics
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1995 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.Ed.St.)--University of Tasmania, 1996. Includes bibliographical references (p. 123-129)

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