The Transition from School to University in Mathematics: Which Influence Do School-Related Variables Have?

  • Stefanie Rach
  • Aiso Heinze


Particularly in mathematics, the transition from school to university often appears to be a substantial hurdle in the individual learning biography. Differences between the characters of school mathematics and scientific university mathematics as well as different demands related to the learning cultures in both institutions are discussed as possible reasons for this phenomenon. If these assumptions hold, the transition from school to university could not be considered as a continuous mathematical learning path because it would require a realignment of students’ learning strategies. In particular, students could no longer rely on the effective use of school-related individual resources like knowledge, interest, or self-concept. Accordingly, students would face strong challenges in mathematical learning processes at the beginning of their mathematics study at university. In this contribution, we examine these assumptions by investigating the role of individual mathematical learning prerequisites of 182 first-semester university students majoring in mathematics. In line with the assumptions, our results indicate only a marginal influence of school-related mathematical resources on the study success of the first semester. In contrast, specific precursory knowledge related to scientific mathematics and students’ abilities to develop adequate learning strategies turn out as main factors for a successful transition phase. Implications for the educational practice will be discussed.


Individual learning processes Role of learning prerequisites Study success Transition school – university 



We like to thank the reviewers for their careful reading of the manuscript and their helpful suggestions.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IPNKielGermany

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