Leeds Beckett University
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Graduate Voices: Exploring Numerate Professionals’ Mathematics Education Experiences and Challenges

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posted on 2022-11-22, 12:52 authored by Michael Cross

Certain graduate professions require evidence of specific mathematics skills or components. For example, Teachers (QTS), Registered Nurses (NMC), Pharmacists (GPhC), Radiographers (SOR) and Psychologists (BPS). These professions represent successful outcomes for an educational trajectory and are in a minority as “numerate graduates” (Durrani and Tariq, 2012, p. 3). Nevertheless, a conundrum exists whereby members of these professions have had, or still have, difficulties with mathematics. This thesis explores the relationship with mathematics, and mathematics education, of eight such graduates who have been in their professions for more than five years. The participants’ demographic is under-represented in the literature and they are not involved, as stakeholders, in mathematics education. Hence, the study is framed as exploratory. An interpretivist approach to inquiry is adopted, utilising analysis of narrative methods to develop thematic networks. In-depth interviews, focused around the construction of a personal timeline (Adriansen, 2012) were used to facilitate the participants telling stories of their experience with mathematics. The inquiry is presented as being a valuable undertaking without pre-supposing what conclusions, if any, may be drawn. Two thematic networks are presented, entitled 'Purpose' and 'Identity' which are explored in relation to the participants' experiences and to relevant literature. Given the professional nature of this doctorate, literature is also reviewed which relates to the field of higher education mathematics support. The experiences related by the participants span many decades yet they have clear accord with one another and with current literature on mathematics education. It seems evident that disempowering and inequitable tendencies within mathematics education, and compulsory education particularly, seem to be 'sticky' in nature and seem to have been replicated, or preserved, over many years and in many contexts. From the analysis, participants' understanding of levels of difficulty within mathematics (the 'yard-stick' effect) together with the motivation to 'make amends' as well as their own conceptualisation of types of mathematics are emphasised. Furthermore, recommendations for practitioners are made regarding awareness of the imperfect nature of assessment and the need for learning to be meaningful.


Qualification name

  • Professional Doctorate


Mitchell, Nick ; Atkinson, S

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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