Mixed Methods Research on the Nexus Between Mathematics and Science

Yoshitaka Nakakoji, Rachel Wilson, Leon Poladian


The importance of maths within STEM education is uncontested and yet there remains a paucity of studies examining the relationship, or nexus, between maths and science at university level. In Australia, recent concern over levels of participation and standards in maths and science education makes such research an imperative. In this paper we present the methodology for a multi-phase mixed methods study of the relationship between maths and science at one Australian university, including: (i) correlation between mathematics and other disciplinary attainments, (ii) measurement of the transferability of undergraduates’ learning, (iii) exploring factors associated with the transfer; and (iv) both students’ and experts’ views on the relationship between mathematics and science and the teaching and learning factors that facilitate or hinder transfer. Importantly, this naturalistic study draws on secondary data and interviews to explore this relationship as it occurs within normal university activity; transfer, for example, is observed in students’ performance in university exams. We report on findings from phase one of the study, by outlining student participation in first year mathematics study in relation to various factors and highlight gender and socioeconomic gaps, and we examine the high school maths preparation in relation to students’ pass rates in STEM degrees.

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