Wednesday 5 December 2018 11:32am
Andrea Knowles, Associate Professor Boris Baeumer and Dr Chris Linsell, who have received a grant to create an in-house numeracy competency tool.
A decline in the numeracy skills of students coming to University has prompted an Otago trio to develop a test to ensure every such student is identified and given the help they need.
Department of Mathematics and Statistics Associate Professor Boris Baeumer, College of Education Senior Lecturer Dr Chris Linsell and Business School Professional Practice Fellow Andrea Knowles have received a $20,000 Teaching Development Grant for the project.
They aim to create a “robust tool to assess numeracy competency in first year students” after they all noticed a marked decline in students’ numeracy skills.
It is understood Otago will be the first university in New Zealand to develop such a tool.
"We will roll it out with some papers next year and then ideally every student will do the test as part of their papers and we will have solid data so we can implement the appropriate assistance."
The University currently uses a Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) test to identify students needing numeracy help, but the trio says that has its drawbacks.
It requires students to give consent for their marks and personal details to be stored by TEC, which puts some students off, and data required to set up the assessment are not always available at enrolment.
Inevitably, some students fall through the cracks, Dr Linsell says.
“We will roll it out with some papers next year and then ideally every student will do the test as part of their papers and we will have solid data so we can implement the appropriate assistance.
“Giving students the option of taking the test appears to miss the students who need it most.”
The current structure of NCEA means students can achieve University Entrance in numeracy by getting enough credits in subjects other than mathematics, such as Level 1 agricultural and horticultural science or Level 1 media studies, they say.
“Students are coming to us with University Entrance, but they very clearly have large gaps in their numeracy skills. It is worrying,” Knowles says.
The new test will be trialled with MATH151 students and the initial teacher education paper EMAT198 in the first semester next year.