Conceptions of mathematics and student identity: implications for engineering education

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International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology

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Taylor & Francis


University of Cape Town

Lecturers of first-year mathematics often have reason to believe that students enter university studies with naive conceptions of mathematics and that more mature conceptions need to be developed in the classroom. Students' conceptions of the nature and role of mathematics in current and future studies as well as future career are pedagogically important as they can impact on student learning and have the potential to influence how and what we teach. As part of ongoing longitudinal research into the experience of a cohort of students registered at the author's institution, students' conceptions of mathematics were determined using a coding scheme developed elsewhere. In this article, I discuss how the cohort of students choosing to study engineering exhibits a view of mathematics as conceptual skill and as problem-solving, coherent with an accurate understanding of the role of mathematics in engineering. Parallel investigation shows, however, that the students do not embody designated identities as engineers.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology on 8 March 2013, available online: