Engaging Mathematics Students Through Undergraduate Research

Layna Groen


Science education has a long history of engaging undergraduate students in inquiry-based learning. Every undergraduate student studying a scientific discipline has first hand experience with the application of scientific method and the technology and practice of their discipline (in the first instance, through their laboratory classes). Such classes are primarily educator-led and subject content-focused. Recent years have seen greater inclusion of student-led and research-focused activities across programs, as seen in Zoology in Edwards et al (2007) and in Chemistry and Physics in McDonagh et al (2011), for example. Mathematics is perhaps the only scientific discipline where this inclusion has yet to broadly manifest itself. This paper will describe how undergraduate research is being incorporated into experiences of third-year mathematics students. As suggested by Beckman and Hansel (2009), we will provide our own definition of undergraduate research as ‘an inquiry or investigation that is original in scope, of an experimental, a theoretical or a creative nature, undertaken in a rigorous manner by undergraduate students, that is open to public scrutiny, and that makes a contribution to a discipline(s)’. Here then, we seek to engage students with the full range of research activities, from the formulation of the research questions, to the dissemination of results. Further, students are empowered to lead the research in collaboration with each other and with the academic staff, with the product a publication in a peer-reviewed, international journal.

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