This project aims to examine the effects of incorporating collaborative learning methods
extensively in a core first-year mathematics subject and to investigate students'
individual learning style preferences, their attitudes towards group-work in mathematics
and the objectives for setting group work, their attitudes towards using computers, in
particular, Mathematica and their concerns regarding the assessment of group-based
Following the rapid increase in the use of technology in education over the last decade,
one would perhaps expect to find an overabundance of literature regarding the effects of
its use. However, the number of technology related research studies has been
surprisingly low, especially those pertaining to the curriculum area of Mathematics at
the tertiary level. The availability of quality software, the need for curriculum redesign,
and limited research on the effectiveness of computers as a teaching tool, are factors to
have hindered the rate of implementation and of subsequent research.
Also, despite the rapid growth in the use of collaborative methods of learning, and
widespread belief in the importance of such methods, there have been calls for increased
research especially at the tertiary level, and particularly in engineering education
looking at students who have to study mathematics because it is a requirement and not
because they are majoring in mathematics, therefore needing to determine how best to
make their learning a meaningful and enjoyable experience.
This project aims to investigative the effects of incorporating a rich collaborative
learning based curriculum in either face-to-face or computer-supported environments in
the subject Mathematical Modelling 1. The carrying out of this project is a response to
the lack of research in a curriculum area of tertiary mathematics. Within the context of
mathematics, issues of attitude, gender differences, motivation and achievement are
considered. The chief purpose of this investigation is to explore the effectiveness of
collaborative learning in mathematics at university, and to provide some insight as to
what degree, if any, the use of such methods enhance mathematics learning.
The research uses an experimental methodology, an attitudinal questionnaire and indepth
interviews to elicit students' feelings and/or opinions toward the incorporation of
collaborative learning. The questionnaire sought demographic information from the
students, namely, name, age, gender, length of stay in Australia and language spoken at
home, and investigates the role of these factors in the effectiveness of, and interest
during the tutorial and laboratory sessions a time when students were working on
This project maintains interest in the use of collaborative problem solving, and the
belief that the findings could be of international significance if the effectiveness of this
style of learning can be finnly established. It is also hoped that grounding the
collaborative activities in the literature, and providing statistical and theoretical support
for their use might promote them more widely in mathematics in particular and more
generally, across universities in Australia.
The broad issue of whether the use of collaborative learning enhances mathematics
learning can be broken down into a number of specific inquiries. The key research
questions may thus be expressed as follows:
I. What are tertiary students' preferred learning styles?
2. What are students' opinions about group work in mathematics?
3. Does collaborative group work foster a deep, meaningful understanding of
4. What are students' attitudes about using CAS such as Mathematica?
5. What are students' attitudes about the assessment of group-based work?
6. Are there any differences in students' learning style preferences across the various
7. Are there any differences in students' attitudes towards collaborative learning
methods across the various demographics?
8. Are there any differences in students' attitudes towards the use of Mathematica
across the various demographics?
9. Are there any variations in students' attitudes towards the assessment of group work
in mathematics across the various demographics?
This study does not claim to fill the void into the effectiveness of computers or
collaborative learning methods, but should provide greater insight and support to future