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Clicking: A constructivist grounded theory for developing quantitative literacy for learning mathematics in an enabling course in tertiary education

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posted on 2019-10-14, 00:00 authored by Gemma MannGemma Mann
Clicking is a theory that explains how students in this study developed quantitative literacy for learning mathematics in an enabling course at university. Using a grounded theory methodology, thirteen students from an enabling course at one institution were interviewed about what helped or hindered them in learning mathematics in a tertiary environment. Students who come to enabling courses often have had barriers and disruptions in prior learning experiences. While most come to enabling courses with the aim of improving their skills, progressing on to bachelor degrees and then professions, they often struggle in the formal learning environment. This is particularly so with mathematics with many students reporting that they do not like, or are not good at the subject. Despite the best intentions for this ‘second chance’ learning, numerous students continue to struggle, withdraw, or fail. This attrition is detrimental to students’ confidence, and also undesirable for the university. Even for those who remain, or are able to pass some assessment, they are still not confident in their ability to learn mathematics. Through this study, the concept of ‘clicking’ was found to be central to students’ understanding of the content, in particular, developing literacy practices that resonated with a literacy resource model for learning. Seven interrelated categories reported by the students were theorised through this model, with the key category of clicking emerging as a process for explaining how quantitative literacy was constructed by learners themselves. Clicking for quantitative literacy was constructed through a student learning cycle of relating, holding interest, exploring ways, taking time, practising, and working through confusion; with tailoring of ways of learning mathematics provided by teachers and others such as peers, family, friends. When used alongside adult learning principles, these findings offer a practical guide for teachers in enabling courses to use with their students to develop their knowledge of how to learn mathematics. For students, being quantitatively literate in ‘learning how to learn mathematics’ through clicking, has implications for success in mathematics learning in their chosen professional studies at university.



Central Queensland University

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I agree that the thesis or portfolio shall be made freely available for the purpose of research or private study.

Open Access

  • Yes

Era Eligible

  • No


Dr Teresa Moore ; Professor Roberta Harreveld

Thesis Type

  • Master's by Research Thesis

Thesis Format

  • Traditional