Safety in numbers: mathematics support centres and their derivatives as social learning spaces

This article reports on data gathered from second and third year mathematics undergraduates at two British universities which have developed Mathematics Support Centres, primarily with a view to supporting skills development for engineering students. However, an unforeseen consequence of the support centres was the mathematics students’ colonisation of the physical space, and the development of group learning strategies which involve a strong community identity. Drawing on a socio-cultural theoretical framework, based primarily in the concept of a figured world, the article explores the students’ perceptions of mathematics learning and their experiences of university-level teaching, focusing on the ways in which they collectively build images of themselves as participants in an undergraduate mathematics community, resourced by the physical safe spaces that they have created, and which they now regard as essential sites of their learning.