# Undergraduate Students’ Conceptions of Mathematics: An International Study

## Abstract

In this paper, we report on an international study of undergraduate mathematics students’ conceptions of mathematics. Almost 1,200 students in five countries completed a short survey including three open-ended questions asking about their views of mathematics and its role in their future studies and planned professions. Responses were analysed starting from a previously-developed phenomenographic framework (Reid et al., 2003) which required only minor modification. Students’ conceptions of mathematics ranged from the narrowest view as a focus on calculations with numbers, through a notion of mathematics as a focus on models or abstract structures, to the broadest view of mathematics as an approach to life and a way of thinking. Broader conceptions of mathematics were more likely to be found in later-year students (*p*<0.001) and there were significant differences between universities (*p*<0.001). The information obtained from the study not only confirms previous research, but also provides a basis for future development of a monitoring questionnaire.

### Key words

conceptions of mathematics mathematics in careers mathematics in tertiary study## Preview

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