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The transition from school to university mathematics in different contexts: affective and sociocultural issues in students’ crisis

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-04-19, 13:51 authored by Pietro Di Martino, Francesca Gregorio, Paola Iannone
Understanding the secondary–tertiary transition is not only an educational matter, but also an inclusion and equality matter as mathematics qualifications lead to better employment and better earning for students. Research on what causes the crisis associated to this transition has so far focused on the impact of cognitive and epistemological changes in university mathematics. Recently, attention has been given to sociocultural and affective issues, which indicate the impact of diverse contexts on such event in the students’ life. Here we present a study investigating the experiences of first-year mathematics students in three European countries. The study adopted the framework of transition as a rite of passage and to detect the changes in attitudes towards the mathematics which originated the crisis, the three-dimensional model for attitude towards mathematics (TMA) was used. Data consist in one questionnaire translated into three languages and administered to students in the first year of study. Most of the questions were open-ended, and the data were analysed first qualitatively and then quantitised. Results show that while the transition experiences of the students may seem on the surface uniform, some significant differences emerge for motivation to join mathematics degrees, motives for changes in perceived competence, and impact of university mathematics formalism. We hypothesise a link between these changes and the differences in educational environments in the three countries. We conclude with highlighting the need for more research of this kind to understand the secondary–tertiary transition in the educational context in which it happens.



  • Science


  • Mathematics Education Centre

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Educational Studies in Mathematics: An International Journal








Springer Nature


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This is an Open Access article published by Springer Nature and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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Dr Paola Iannone. Deposit date: 6 October 2022

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