The use of reflective journals in a first year mathematics unit
AbstractFor many years society at large has proudly commented that ‘maths was my worst subject at school’. This statement is then usually followed by some explanation of why this was so, for example, ‘numbers scare me’ or ‘I just freeze when doing a test’. Anecdotal evidence suggests that more and more students are entering university with this mind set and this attitude may be part of the reason why fewer students are attempting higher levels of mathematics at school. In 2008 our institution decided to introduce a new unit that was specifically designed to help students develop strategies to lessen the effects of maths anxiety and test phobia. This report details the introduction of a reflective journal as part of the assessment in a mathematics unit. Students were required to make journal entries every two weeks. These entries required students to reflect on their current examination preparation practices and to put strategies in place to lessen the effects of maths anxiety. Preliminary findings indicate that although students found this exercise helpful, it did not necessarily improve their mathematics marks. However, even if the student’s feelings towards mathematics improve, we will have gained. A positive attitude towards mathematics, by those who love it and are successful at it, as well as by those who struggle with mathematics, can only be of benefit.