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PhD project: Enablers and Barriers: An investigation into students’ thoughts when engaging with procedural and problem-solving tasks in mathematics


   Graduate Research School Office

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  Dr Fiona Faulkner , Dr Paul Robinson  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This research aims to extend existing work which examines beginning undergraduate students’ problem solving and procedural skills, in the context of the introduction of the ‘Project Maths’ curriculum in second level education in Ireland in 2008. One of the aims of ‘Project Maths’ was to change the emphasis of second level mathematics education from a focus on rote learning and procedural skills to real understanding and problem solving. Work carried out by Faulkner et al (2021) demonstrates that students problem solving skills on entry to third level education have not improved in the lifetime of the Project Maths roll out. This recent work therefore called for a qualitative investigation into what challenges students may be having, when they engage with both procedural skills in mathematics and problem-solving skills. This PhD aims to carry out such an investigation using a pre-approved diagnostic test (Faulkner et al 2021) along with a ‘thinking-aloud’ method of data collection. This method asks students to verbalise their thoughts while they work through an exam paper or set of tasks (Nielsen 2012). The research aims to continue to collect yearly quantitative data to keep a longitudinal record of students’ performance in the diagnostic test. The project will include

-         Examining existing trends in beginning third level students’ mathematical performance with a particular focus on lower attaining students.

-         Investigating students problem solving and procedural skills.

-         Using qualitative methodologies to determine students challenges when engaging with mathematics.

-         Build large databases of students’ performance for statistical analysis.

-         Implementing an intervention to support student mathematical learning.

-         Determining how the findings compare/contrast to national and international research.

-         Use the research findings to inform policy and practice in mathematics education and in turn to improve the provision of mathematics education for beginning undergraduates.

Student requirements for this project

Ideally, the candidate will have some experience teaching mathematics at second level and have a sound grasp of basic mathematical principles at that level. Teaching experience up to Leaving Certificate level would be advantageous, but applications from those who have taught service mathematics at third level or provided mathematics support are also welcome. Applicants must have a minimum of a second class honours grade 1 with some mathematical content and a postgraduate teaching qualification would be helpful though not required.

The position will be based in TU Dublin Tallaght Campus but will also involve travel to City Campus and possibly Blanchardstown Campus.

To apply, interested candidates should send an expression of Interest (https://www.tudublin.ie/media/website/research/postgraduate-research/graduate-research-school/documents/EOI-Form.docx) including their curriculum vitae, an unofficial academic transcript, and a brief statement of interests, indicating preferred research directions (in English) to [Email Address Removed] and [Email Address Removed] and arrange for two recommendation letters to be sent to the same email address. Informal inquiries should be directed to the prospective supervisors (Dr Fiona Faulkner, Lecturer of Mathematics, Dr Paul Robinson, Lecturer of Mathematics or Mr Ciaran O’Sullivan, Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering). 


Funding Notes

Student Stipend: €18,500 per year for 4 years
€2,000 per year budget for travel and materials included
Fees: €4,500 per year paid by the project.
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