Abstract

This research project investigated the reasons why senior secondary school students elect not to enrol in a higher mathematics course. All Year 11 and Year 12 mathematics students within Western Australian schools (aged 17–18 years) were invited to participate in a single, anonymous, online survey comprised predominantly of qualitative items. In line with a symbolic interactionist theoretical perspective, participant responses (n = 1351) were analysed to determine the meaning students conferred upon decisions to enrol in mathematics courses. In particular, responses indicated that students are dissatisfied with mathematics, there are other more viable courses of study to undertake, and that the Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking (ATAR) score can be maximised by taking a lower mathematics course. Additional testimony suggests that there are few incentives offered to students undertaking a higher mathematics course, and that such courses are not needed for university entrance nor in later life. In light of these findings, a discussion synthesises student-led suggestions with current literature which could lead to higher future enrolments in secondary mathematics courses.

Keywords

secondary mathematics enrolments, senior secondary mathematics, senior secondary student participation

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