A pilot initiative on improving students’ task value perceptions of high school mathematics through practical STEM interventions
conference contributionposted on 02.03.2022, 23:54 by Benjamin TaylorBenjamin Taylor, Claire-Marie McLean, Andrew DuncanAndrew Duncan, Aruna JayasuriyaAruna Jayasuriya, Roland DoddRoland Dodd, Thia WhitingThia Whiting
CONTEXT: Poor mathematics aptitude remains a significant barrier for students to commence or complete STEM tertiary education. As part of the Higher Education Participation and Partnership Program, a pilot initiative between CQUniversity and the Bundaberg North State High School provided over 100 year-9 students with knowledge and understanding of tertiary institutions and first-hand practical experience in learning and applying high school mathematics curriculum in STEM-related fields. PURPOSE: This paper studies the immediate changes in students’ task value perceptions of mathematics after experiencing a practical mathematics excursion to CQUniversity and any longer-term changes in perceptions after using mathematics learning resources deployed at their school throughout 2018. Increasing perceptions of task value can also increase motivation to study, hence understanding the impact of practical interventions that enhance the learning and teaching of the mathematics curriculum is vital for promoting STEM courses and careers. APPROACH: Three separate surveys provided data for this study on changes to students’ perceptions of studying mathematics, their knowledge of applying mathematics in the workforce and their desires to study a STEM tertiary course. Students completed surveys before and after participating in a practical mathematics excursion, and a final survey was in late 2018 after continued usage of the HOTMaths resources deployed at their school. RESULTS: Results indicate that while the numbers of students interested in pursuing a STEM career has not changed significantly after participating in the excursion, perceptions of mathematics has changed in some areas indicating students are now more able to make informed choices about their senior subject selection and ultimately whether to pursue a STEM career, due to the practical interventions. CONCLUSIONS: With changes to Commonwealth funding to promote success in higher education, it is now more critical that high-school students make informed decisions about their senior subject selections and their tertiary education preferences. This pilot has demonstrated that practical excursions and learning resources which promote practical thinking can improve students’ task value perceptions of their mathematics curriculum and these activities are likely to assist students to make valid choices concerning future studies.