Mathematical literacy in Plant Physiology undergraduates: results of interventions aimed at improving students' performance

Francisca Vila, Amparo Sanz
2013 International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology  
The importance of mathematical literacy in any scientific career is widely recognized. However, various studies report lack of numeracy and mathematical literacy in students from various countries. In the present work we present a detailed study of the mathematical literacy of Spanish undergraduate students of Biology enrolled in a Plant Physiology course. We have performed individual analyses of results obtained during the period 2000-2011, for questions in the examinations requiring and not
more » ... requiring and not requiring mathematical skills. Additionally, we present the outcome of two interventions introduced with the aim of helping students improve their prospects for success in the course. Our results confirm previous research showing students' deficiencies in mathematical skills. However, the scores obtained for mathematical questions in the examinations are good predictors of the final grades attained in Plant Physiology, as there are strong correlations at the individual level between results for questions requiring and not requiring mathematical skills. The introduction of a laboratory session devoted to strengthening the application of students' previously acquired mathematical knowledge did not change significantly the results obtained for mathematical questions. Since mathematical abilities of students entering university have declined in recent years, this intervention may have helped to maintain students' performance to a level comparable to that of previous years. The outcome of selfassessment online tests indicates that though Mathematics anxiety is lower than during examinations, the poor results obtained for questions requiring mathematical skills are, at least in part, due to a lack of self-efficacy.
doi:10.1080/0020739x.2013.813979 fatcat:fdhhhw2glzcijhmgsljrwilvie