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Mathematics Education Centre

Postgraduate Studentship Opportunities in the field:

Mathematics Support of students with Additional Needs



The Mathematics Education Centre (MEC) at Loughborough University is  
an internationally renowned centre of teaching, learning and support  
in mathematics and statistics. It is a key player in many high-profile  
national initiatives. Being part of a School of Mathematics, it has  
especially strong collaborative links with colleagues in the  
Department of Mathematical Sciences and as such is well-placed to  
research and impact directly upon higher education practice.  The MEC  
also incorporates expertise in mathematical support for students with  
additional needs. This support is based in the Eureka Centre for  
Mathematical Confidence, the first such centre in the UK. This  
expertise is enhanced by close collaboration with the University’s  
Disabilities and Additional Needs Service. A Postgraduate Certificate  
in Mathematics Support and Dyslexia/Dyscalculia in FE/HE is run as a  
result of this collaboration.  An opportunity exists[1] for a full or  
part-time research student to work in this arena of Mathematics and  
Additional Needs in Higher Education. The following three potential  
projects are indicative of the opportunities available.


1. Dyscalculia in Higher Education

Dyscalculia is a relatively new field of study, particularly in  
relation to Higher Education and little research evidence has been  
gathered. Only data relating to children is available currently.  
Furthermore, it is apparent that there are increasing numbers of  
dyscalculic students studying at undergraduate level, raising  
questions about what challenges they face. Thus, since there is no  
clear picture of provision for dyscalculia within the HE sector, the  
proposed research would be the first such study. This research would  
focus on the first national collection of data, giving information on  
the number of dyscalculic student in higher education, their  
neurodiverse profiles and the courses they are enrolled in. Further  
detailed work would determine a more complete picture of how students  
are screened and assessed, the recommendations of their needs  
assessments and the nature of any support provision. Follow up work  
with individual case studies would determine their personal  
mathematical histories, the barriers they faced through school and the  
nature of the difficulties they experience in Higher Education both  
academically and socially.

The ideal applicant will have a good honours degree in mathematics  
education or mathematics with, preferably, a Masters level or  
equivalent study in mathematics education or specific learning  
differences. Experience in teaching mathematics and/or working with  
students with additional needs in Higher Education is highly  
desirable.  (See General Entry Requirements below).



2. Undergraduate Mathematics and Dyslexia

Research into dyslexia is well established and our understanding of  
the many interwoven and complex issues continues to grow. Much of this  
has focused on reading, writing and literacy based skills and there is  
little that relates to mathematics, particularly undergraduate  
students studying mathematics. It is known that many dyslexics choose  
to study mathematics, physics or engineering, and often follow a  
post-16 path of study in mathematics, science and technology, thereby  
specialising in what may be seen as non-text based areas. The proposed  
research would focus on the strengths that dyslexic mathematicians  
bring to their studies as well as looking at the difficulties they  
experience as a result of their dyslexia. By drawing on case studies,  
evidence will be obtained to highlight the coping strategies students  
develop around their mathematics. Further research would investigate  
the development of identity. There is much research on dyslexia and  
identity, focusing on how their dyslexia impacts on the student’s  
sense of self and self-esteem.  Further, there is a growing body of  
evidence on mathematical identities concerned with how students see  
themselves as mathematicians, their beliefs about themselves as  
mathematicians, and their relationship with mathematics. What is the  
relationship between these two facets of identity and what is the  
relative contribution of each for the dyslexic mathematician? Detailed  
individual case studies will provide insights into these questions.  
The ideal applicant will have a good honours degree in mathematics  
education or mathematics with, preferably, a Masters level or  
equivalent study in mathematics or mathematics education or specific  
learning differences. Experience in teaching mathematics and/or  
working with students with dyslexia in Higher Education is highly  
desirable. (See General Entry Requirements below).



3. Mathematics Support for Students with Additional Needs

Most institutions of Higher Education offer one-to-one support to  
students with additional needs. Frequently this is language based,  
study skills support provided by specialist tutors. However, it is  
recognised that specific learning differences such as dyslexia,  
dyscalculia and dyspraxia can impact on understanding and achievement  
in mathematics. Some institutions are now addressing this issue.  
Research in this area is needed to focus on how this is being  
undertaken, whether by specialist SpLD tutors or in Mathematics  
Support Centres, and, in particular, to focus on the nature of the  
support offered. The research question is “What determines high  
quality, effective mathematics support for students with additional  
needs?” A considerable amount is known about good practice in dyslexia  
support in the study skills context, but how is this to be applied to  
mathematics and is the nature of the support similar for dyscalculia  
or other neurodiverse students? If not, how does it differ? Research  
will be conducted through detailed case studies and through an  
analysis of one-to-one support sessions in mathematics through video.   
The ideal applicant will have a good honours degree in mathematics  
education or mathematics with, preferably, a Masters level or  
equivalent study in mathematics or mathematics education or specific  
learning differences. Experience in teaching mathematics and/or  
working with students with additional needs in Higher Education is  
highly desirable. (See General Entry Requirements below).



General Entry Requirements

All candidates must have (or expect to gain) a good honours degree  
(usually at least 2.1) in Mathematics, Education, or a strongly  
related discipline. Additional desirable qualifications are listed  
above. Essential for success are good English language skills, both  
oral and written. We welcome applicants from the EU and Overseas who  
are fluent in English (this can be demonstrated via a number of  
different qualifications). The successful applicant will be expected,  
with support, to study relevant research literature, attend  
appropriate training to fill gaps in preparation and develop general  
skills, identify research questions and take the lead in designing and  
conducting studies to investigate these questions. He or she will also  
be expected to take a full part in the research life of the MEC,  
participating in all research seminars and reading group sessions  
(where possible for part-time students) giving presentations on his or  
her own work and seeking funding to attend national and international  
conferences.  Applicants should submit the following:


·       A one-page CV summarising relevant experience and skills.

·       A one-page cover letter describing their reasons for wishing  
to undertake PhD study in their stated chosen area and the personal  
qualities that they will bring.

·       A two-page essay on one or more issues affecting learning in  
mathematics in higher education.



Submitted materials will be assessed for coherence, clarity and  
relevance. Applications for the opportunities described here will be  
assessed competitively against all applications for positions in the  
MEC. Informal contact is welcome prior to any formal application.  
Clare Trott ([log in to unmask]) from the Eureka Centre will be happy  
to talk through opportunities. Formal applications can be made online.



Closing date: 30th April 2010.      Stipend: This is currently £13290  
plus fees at UK/EU rate.




[1] Note that funding is usually restricted to home/EU students. The  
Centre welcomes applications from International students who are self- 
funded or who have access to sponsorship from their governments and  
other funding bodies.