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.