Putting it into perspective: mathematics in the undergraduate science curriculum

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Mathematics and science are tightly interwoven, yet they are often treated as distinct disciplines in the educational context. This study details the development, implementation and outcomes of a teaching intervention that highlights the links between mathematics and science, in the form of a first-year interdisciplinary course. A mixed method study using surveys and focus groups was employed to investigate undergraduate science students' perceptions of their experiences. Findings reveal that students bring strong beliefs about the nature of mathematics and science from secondary school, which can impact significantly on the success of interdisciplinary science-mathematics courses at the tertiary level. Despite this, a range of beneficial outcomes can arise from such courses when they are delivered within a framework of analysing real-world issues. However, students with weak mathematical skills derived little benefit from an interdisciplinary approach and are likely to disengage from learning, in comparison with students who enter university with a solid foundation in mathematics.

Keywords: curriculum; higher education; integration; interdisciplinary; mathematics education; science education

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00207390903199244

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Science, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia 2: Teaching and Educational Development Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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