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Deep and shallow approaches to learning mathematics are not mutually exclusive.

Mathias, J. and Newton, D.P. (2016) 'Deep and shallow approaches to learning mathematics are not mutually exclusive.', Proceedings of the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics (BSRLM)., 36 (2). pp. 46-54.


From time to time, students are characterised as having a deep or shallow approach to learning. A deep approach to learning tends to attract more approval than a shallow approach, at least in the West. Students on a university-based Foundation course to prepare them for undergraduate studies were divided into those likely to have a deep approach (26) and those likely to have a shallow approach (18). Their performance in a test of problem solving in an aspect of applied mathematics was compared. Contrary to expectations, the test scores and interviews with the students indicated that those with a deep approach did not benefit when asked to apply their learning in new contexts, and those with a shallow approach were not markedly disadvantaged. It is suggested that, at least amongst learners, neither approach is likely to be entirely self-sufficient, but should be seen as acceptable starting points of potential routes to success. Although a small scale study, mathematics tutors should be able to relate the findings and suggestions to their own experiences and practices.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Status:Not peer-reviewed
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:29 November 2016
Date of first online publication:30 June 2016
Date first made open access:No date available

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