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Nutrition students and mathematics: Competent but not confident

Karin M Clark, Audrey Cooke, Anthony P James, Rhiannon E Halse

Abstract


Aim: To assess skills, competence and disposition of nutrition students towards mathematics. 

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, to assess the numeracy of undergraduate nutrition students enrolled in a level 2 biochemistry unit (n = 40). Primary outcome measures were evaluations of competence when answering discipline-specific questions and students’ confidence and perceived ease and disposition towards mathematics. 

Results: The majority of students were competent (mean diagnostic test score = 72%), with only four students scoring below the competence midpoint. However, many students reported low confidence and a high perception of difficulty, indicated by the majority of scores above the line of equality in self-confidence and ease of questions. Furthermore, 30% of students identified as having anxiety related to mathematical understanding and mathematical knowledge below the midpoint. 

Conclusions: Results showed a significant proportion of students were not confident with mathematics, despite being competent. Anxiety concerning knowledge and understanding was present in 30% of students. These findings are important for tailoring a numeracy support framework that specifically addresses confidence and disposition towards mathematics to ensure that students can succeed in the mathematical challenges inherent to their course and future nutrition career.


Keywords


mathematics; nutrition; competence; confidence; disposition; anxiety

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/fohpe.v21i1.356

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