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New patterns in learning and teaching in mathematics and statistics

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Undergraduate students generally seem to lack interest, motivation and enthusiasm to engage with mathematics/statistics service courses. This could be due to a variety of factors such as inadequate understanding of the courses’ relevance to students' respective degree programmes/career paths, cultural/academic diversity in student backgrounds and/or pre-conceived negative notions of mathematics/statistics. This paper will discuss strategies developed to achieve excellence in learning and teaching for mathematics/statistics service courses, which positively contributed towards enhancing student motivation, engagement and enthusiasm. Further, they kindled students’ interest in mathematical/statistical applications relevant to practical situations and transformed their attitudes from lack of interest to keen interest in the subjects. The strategies worked extremely well in seminars of about 15 students as well as lectures to large audiences of about 300 students. Another desirable outcome was their impact on boosting students’ confidence to actively participate in seminar activities and contribute to discussions on problem solving that involved applying mathematical/statistical theories to practical situations. This made a positive contribution to enhancing students’ academic self-efficacy and the learning climate in teaching rooms. The author mainly used a student-centred approach to create interest in the subjects by the effective use of formative assessments endeavouring to set these using scenarios that are of students’ interest. The rationale behind this was to reduce their test anxiety and improve student engagement by choosing problem-solving themes they can relate to. The feedback on formative assessments was made interactive which enabled students to reflect on their work and develop self-evaluative skills helping them to continue improving their future work. The author argues that the discussed approach could achieve greater student participation, promote student interaction/engagement and enhance their graduate employability profile.

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