Mastery Learning to Address the Assumed Mathematics Knowledge Gap, Encourage Learning and Reflection, and Future-proof Academic Performance

The University of Sydney
Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 2015, 23 (2), pp. 65 - 79
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UTS Science, Engineering and Mathematics students who have studied General Mathematics at high school are far more likely to fail their first undergraduate mathematics subject compared to their counterparts who meet the non-compulsory “Assumed Knowledge” of 2 unit Mathematics. This problem has been growing in recent years as an increasing number of students seek to improve their tertiary entrance score by taking the no-calculus General Mathematics at the Higher School Certificate. This problem is not unique to the University of Technology, Sydney - mathematical under-preparedness is a problem world-wide, with a decade, or more, long history. For some years, UTS has used diagnostic testing and pre-teaching to assist under-prepared students. Unfortunately, students who studied General Mathematics are also more likely to fail the pre-teaching subject. This suggested something more was required. Mastery Learning was chosen as a potential solution. Results to date have been promising with improvements in academic success for under-prepared students. Students have also reported increased satisfaction, confidence and retention of content. However, some students felt all Mastery Learning taught them was how to pass the Mastery Tests. Differences in student experience appear to be due to differences in how Mastery Learning was implemented.
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