Presentation by Robert Prince, UCT at the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics Communities of Practice meeting at UJ, 29 – 30 August 2018

robert prince

The Diagnostic Mathematics Information for Student Retention and Success (DMISRS) Project

The problem: Only 27% of students entering full-time university in 2006 graduated in minimum time.

40% leave higher education.

41% of engineering and 48% of science 2006 entrants graduated in 5 years.


Educational diagnostic testing is assessment before instruction begins.

DMISRS – a collaboration by mathematicians to improve graduation rates.

  • Make use of NBT data to inform students and lecturers about what areas of weakness and strength are.
  • Share practices, leverage best practices.
  • Extend the reach of academics beyond a physical classroom.
  • Create supportive environments for maths learning [maybe using positive psychology]. What kinds of things will make our classrooms more welcoming to students.


  1. Get more institutions on board to collect diagnostic information in the same style/language.
  2. Get institutions to use the results of the collected information.
    1. Give individual students pointers of what to improve with blended learning materials
    2. Give lecturers pointers of what to improve with blended learning materials
  3. Do a base-line survey of the curriculum-integrated support … computer-integrated learning … blended learning to address issues
  4. Long-term objective: increased students participation and success in mathematics.
  5. Transform the profile of students succeeding in mathematics.
  6. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), empowered with extensive knowledge of curriculum-integrated support initiatives, should  be in a position to enhance the first-year experience, and reduce attrition.
  7. High level objectives for each HEI: * describe and assess maths curriculum; * describe support stuctures; * describe collaborative support; * presentations and publications sharing this knowledge.

1st DMISRS discussion themes

  • Maths curriculum
  • Open Education Resources (OERs)
  • Staff motivation and development
  • Understanding our students
  • Examining what and how we teach
  • Blended learning
  • Assessment

3 Key themes to work on collaboratively on conference or journal papers:

  • OER
  • Staff development and motivation
  • Assessment.

Anita Campbell (UCT) has submitted an abstract for the HELTASA 2018 conference. The aim of the paper is to outline a position (from the perspective of mathematics lecturers) on how these themes contribute to improving teaching and learning of university mathematics, and to outline questions for further research. To join the collaborative paper, contact


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