This empirical study explores factors influencing undergraduates’ self-evaluation of their numerical competence, using data from an online survey completed by 566 undergraduates from a diversity of academic disciplines, across all four faculties at a post-1992 UK university. Analysis of the data, which included correlation and multiple regression analyses, revealed that undergraduates exhibiting greater confidence in their mathematical and numeracy skills, as evidenced by their higher self-evaluation scores and their higher scores on the confidence sub-scale contributing to the measurement of attitude, possess more cohesive, rather than fragmented, conceptions of mathematics, and display more positive attitudes towards mathematics/numeracy. They also exhibit lower levels of mathematics anxiety. Students exhibiting greater confidence also tended to be those who were relatively young (i.e. 18–29 years), whose degree programmes provided them with opportunities to practise and further develop their numeracy skills, and who possessed higher pre-university mathematics qualifications. The multiple regression analysis revealed two positive predictors (overall attitude towards mathematics/numeracy and possession of a higher pre-university mathematics qualification) and five negative predictors (mathematics anxiety, lack of opportunity to practise/develop numeracy skills, being a more mature student, being enrolled in Health and Social Care compared with Science and Technology, and possessing no formal mathematics/numeracy qualification compared with a General Certificate of Secondary Education or equivalent qualification) accounted for approximately 64% of the variation in students’ perceptions of their numerical competence. Although the results initially suggested that male students were significantly more confident than females, one compounding variable was almost certainly the students’ highest pre-university mathematics or numeracy qualification, since a higher percentage of males (24%) compared to females (15%) possessed an Advanced Subsidiary or A2 qualification (or equivalent) in mathematics. Of particular concern is the fact that undergraduates based in Health and Social Care expressed significantly less confidence in their numeracy skills than students from any of the other three faculties.
|International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology
|Published - 2011