Snapshot of Mathematical Background Demographics of a Broad Cohort of First Year Chemistry Science Students


  • Wendy A. Loughlin
  • Dianne J. Watters
  • Christopher L. Brown
  • Peter R. Johnston


A case study of the background mathematical skills of a varied group of first year chemistry students (n = 455) is presented. Potential student demographic factors, including school leaver, mature age, non-English speaking background, and pre-requisite or prior assumed mathematical and chemistry knowledge, were examined. The student cohort had a diverse background in mathematical knowledge with only 53% meeting the pre-requisite mathematics admission criteria used in Queensland. A voluntary survey was completed by some students (n = 57) from the total cohort, which identified the individual mathematical background of students, their perception of the importance of mathematical skills in their study and their confidence with mathematics. The survey responses indicated that students generally did not have high confidence with their mathematical skills; especially for those with poorer mathematics backgrounds. Interestingly, all students were in strong agreement regarding the importance of mathematics to their study of chemistry. Correlation of the student mathematics background with a chemistry diagnostic test revealed that prior achievement in mathematics impacted on performance within chemistry. We propose that integration of foundational and enabling mathematical skills with curriculum would build student confidence and is more likely to have success in enabling science students to engage and succeed.






Published paper