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

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.
By | September 6th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Future Planning of the USAf Teaching and Learning of Mathematics Community of Practice

Professor Rajendran Govender from the University of the Western Cape presented the objectives and future plans of the Universities South Africa (USAf) Teaching and Learning of Mathematics Community of Practice (TLM CoP) at the 2-day meeting at the University of Johannesburg, 29 – 30 August 2018

R Govender

  • In accordance with the principles guiding a community of practice, the TLM CoP provides an opportunity for academics and relevant other university staff members to collaborate, network and share knowledge on issues of common interest or concern.
  • The objectives of the TLM CoP are to promote and strengthen the teaching and learning of Mathematics in public universities in South Africa by:

1.Developing and recommending strategies for the sector to ensure improved access and success in the teaching and learning of Mathematics, thus contributing directly to the transformation needs of South Africa. (session dedicated to this at the next meeting)

2.Providing a shared, common platform from which successful initiatives may be disseminated.…

By | September 6th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Radically transforming mathematics learning experiences: Lessons from the Carnegie Math Pathways

Siyaphumelela Conference 2017, The Wanders Club, Johannesburg

Andre Freedman, Capital Community College

Bernadine Chuck Fong, Carnegie Math PathwaysWhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 19.00.43 WhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 19.00.23 WhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 19.00.15 (1) WhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 19.00.15 WhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 18.59.54 WhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 18.57.16 (1) WhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 18.57.16 WhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 18.38.22 WhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 18.37.57 WhatsApp Image 2017-06-27 at 18.37.41 Andre Freedman and Bernadine Chuck Fong

Workshop goals:

  • Learn about the design, goals, implementations of Carnegie Math Pathways
  • Experience Pathways lessons
  • Engage in design tasks to improve student success in maths and college
  • Engage in conversations about professional learning to address issues and concerns that are specific to local contexts

Faculty had to learn new ways to teaching maths, there had to be ‘buy in’ for it to be successful.

How to radically transform outcomes for all mathematics students?

  • Completion
  • persistence
  • quality of learning (e.g. students can explain what a function is years after taking a maths course)
  • identities of learning (students see themselves as someone who can do maths).

Make maths a Gateway not a Gatekeeper.


  • Acceleration: Rather not have 3 developmental courses (pre-algebra, algebra1, 2) before taking the required course
  • Problem-centered curriculum
  • Student-focused, collaborative pedagogy
  • ‘Productive Persistence’ interventions / practices to give students belief that they can succeed
  • Language and literacy supports
  • Train faculty so they can feel comfortable about the new approach
  • Use networking to support staff to get running and sustain change
  • Keep cohort together for 2 semesters in classes of 30 – 40, or as one institution did teach the 2 semesters in one term (quarter of a year) with about 5 hours a day and one other course -success rate was very high at 78%.
By | September 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Shuttleworth Postgraduate Scholarship Programme


By | August 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions, by Damon Centola, a review

NB. This book was sent to me as a review copy.


The idea of this book is relatively simple, but the consequences are huge, and in fact some of the ideas are far more subtle and complex than they may first appear.

Essentially this book is based on a series of experiments which Damon Centola has run, which are all related to changes in behaviour which can be tracked, and made to occur, through a social network (in the broadest sense of the word). This is the study diffusion in a network.

The fundamentals of the research lie on two distinctions: One in the complexity of a contagion/behaviour, meaning how many connections with others who have the contagion/behaviour do you need until you adopt it, and the other in the topology of the social network, meaning loosely, how much like a street where each person only talks to their neighbours, versus a small world-network where there are a lot of disparate connections does the network look like.…

By | August 21st, 2018|Book reviews, Reviews|2 Comments

Why did we choose that range for theta when doing trig substitutions?

Remember when we are doing a trig substitution, for instance for an integral with:




We said that we should choose x=a\sin\theta, which seemed reasonable, but we also said that -\frac{\pi}{2}\le\theta\le\frac{\pi}{2}. Where did this last bit come from?

Well, we want a couple of things to hold true. The first is that any substitution that we make, we have to be able to undo. That is, we will substitute x for a function of \theta but in the end we need to convert back to x and so to do that we have to be able to write the inverse function of, in this case x=a\sin\theta. The \sin function is itself not invertible because it’s not one to one, so we have to choose a range over which it is one to one. We could choose -\frac{\pi}{2}\le\theta\le\frac{\pi}{2} or we could choose \frac{\pi}{2}\le\theta\le\frac{3\pi}{2} (amongst an infinite set of possibilities). That would also be invertible. However, remember that we are going to end up with a term of the form:




So if we want this to simplify, we had better choose our range of \theta such that \cos\theta is positive, so that we can write \sqrt{\cos^2\theta}=\cos\theta.…

By | August 2nd, 2018|Courses, English, First year, MAM1000, Undergraduate|2 Comments

Integrals with sec and tan when the power of tan is odd

We went through an example in class today which was


\int tan^6\theta \sec^4\theta d\theta


In this case we took out two powers of sec and then converted all the other \sec into $latex\ tan$, which left a function of tan times sec^2\theta d\theta. We wanted to do this because the derivative of \tan is \sec^2 and so we can do a simple substitution. If we have an odd power of \tan, we can employ a different trick. Let’s look at:


I=\int \tan^5\theta\sec^7\theta d\theta.


Here, sec is an odd power and so we can’t employ the same trick as before. Now we want to convert everything to a function of \sec and have only a factor which is the derivative of \sec left over. The derivative of \sec is \sec\tan, so let’s try and take this out:


I=\int \tan^5\theta\sec^7\theta d\theta=\int \tan^4\theta\sec^6\theta (\sec\theta\tan\theta)d\theta.


Now convert the \tan into \sec by \tan^2\theta=\sec^2\theta-1:


I=\int (\sec^2\theta-1)^2\sec^6\theta (\sec\theta\tan\theta)d\theta=\int (\sec^{10}\theta-2\sec^8\theta+\sec^6\theta) (\sec\theta\tan\theta)d\theta


where here we have just expanded out the bracket and multiplied everything out.…

Fundamental theorem of calculus example

We did an example today in class which I wanted to go through again here. The question was to calculate


\frac{d}{dx}\int_a^{x^4}\sec t dt


We spot the pattern immediately that it’s an FTC part 1 type question, but it’s not quite there yet. In the FTC part 1, the upper limit of the integral is just x, and not x^4. A question that we would be able to answer is:


\frac{d}{dx}\int_a^{x}\sec t dt


This would just be \sec x. Or, of course, we can show that in exactly the same way:


\frac{d}{du}\int_a^{u}\sec t dt=\sec u


That’s just changing the names of the variables, which is fine, right? But that’s not quite the question. So, how can we convert from x^4 to u? Well, how about a substitution? How about letting x^4=u and seeing what happens. This is actually just a chain rule. It’s like if I asked you to calculate:


\frac{d}{dx} g(x^4).


You would just say: Let x^4=u and then we have:


\frac{d}{dx} g(x^4)=\frac{du}{dx}\frac{d}{du}g(u)=4x^3 g'(u).…

Is MAM1000W Making You Anxious?

Hello, my name is Jeremy :-)

I am new to the MAM1000W team of tutors – if you want to read more about my background you can take a look at my bio in the MAM1000W document on Vula. In short, I returned to UCT last year to do my second undergraduate degree, a BSc in Applied Maths and Computer Science, at 25 years old, after not doing any maths for seven years. In the beginning, I found MAM1000W really hard; the pace of the content and the tutorials made me anxious and when test one came around I scored 50%. More anxiety. Luckily I have a great support system (inside and outside the Math department) and with some good advice and determination, I was able to figure out a new, way of studying and managing my time that worked better for me. When it came time for test 2, despite being super stressed out, I scored 81%.…

By | July 22nd, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Calculus for the ambitious, by Tom Korner, a review, by Henri Laurie

Amazon link

This is a lovely book: strong emphasis on ideas; a lively sense of humour; a sure logical touch; historical detail that is accurate, relevant, yet quirky (takes some doing!). What’s not to like?

Well, there’s this: it is not easy to decide whether to recommend the book to anybody who doesn’t already know calculus. I’ll return to that. Let me start by describing why this is such a good book.

Firstly, the light touch and the clarity, which together make it wonderfully accessible. Fans of Tom Korner, including yours truly, will be happy to hear that it it as good as his “The Pleasures of Counting” and “Fourier Analysis”, two of the best books on maths ever. Like them, it discusses applications, social context and history but always in a way that supports the maths, which remains the main focus.

Secondly, the balance between rigour and intuition is superbly judged and maintained.…

By | June 20th, 2018|Book reviews, Reviews|0 Comments