Relevance of Mathematics Education

Relevance of Mathematics Education from the Perspective of Students

Students’ assumed relevance of mathematics education is a crucial variable for its success. Against this background, it is surprising that there are hardly any insights on these ideas in the international research community. Instead, it has been shown in various countries, including Austria, that among students in secondary school there are at best fragile ideas about the relevance of mathematics education: For example, it is usually emphasised that mathematics education serves to cope with everyday situations, but then it is also quickly recognised that this explanation does not apply to the content currently discussed in class. Thus, it is questionable how these ideas can be grasped and developed further in order to enable more pupils to engage with mathematics in a meaningful way. In this sense, this project sees itself as a contribution to the further development of mathematics education in Austria and beyond.

This project relies on the expertise of school students as Citizen Scientists in the collection and evaluation of data. The project aims at identifying phenomena and generating explanations. The guiding research questions are which ideas about the relevance of mathematics teaching exist, how these can be meaningfully collected and how they developed and can be developed.

Students from four eighth or ninth grade classes at two middle schools and two grammar schools will participate. They will be interviewed first, but are already active as Citizen Scientists in the analysis of the data by adding their perspectives to those of the research team. On a research day at the university, they are presented with further ideas on relevance to mathematics to discuss with them. Some students stay longer in the project if they wish, refine the survey instrument, collect data themselves in parallel classes and evaluate them on a second research day. The added value for the pupils involved is, on the one hand, that they gain insights into how research results come about and, on the other hand, that they can open up new dimensions of the relevance of mathematics for themselves. Teachers learn new methods to address the relevance of mathematics in the classroom and to motivate their students for mathematics lessons.

A broad public should be able to benefit from the theoretical and practical insights of the project through research- and teacher-oriented publications. The project leader already has corresponding successes from previous projects and will carry out the project together with a doctoral assistant and student assistants.

(Photocredit © Pixabay/Pete Linforth)