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Evaluation of maths by Email: Final report

Kissane, B. and McConney, A. (2010) Evaluation of maths by Email: Final report. Murdoch University. Centre for Learning, Change and Developement, Murdoch University, Murdoch.

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    Abstract

    Maths by Email (MbE) is a free fortnightly email newsletter produced during 2010 through a partnership between CSIRO Education and the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI), with funding from the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). The principal aim of MbE has been “to communicate that mathematics is making a valuable contribution to the community, is relevant, beautiful, interesting and enjoyable and provides many employment opportunities.”

    This evaluation study was commissioned to provide independent feedback to the editors and publisher of the Maths by Email (MbE) initiative to potentially improve the service and to inform decision making regarding future plans for the service. In detail, the study was concerned with (i) who is using MbE and how it is being used, (ii) the extent to which MbE is meeting its stated aims, (iii) the effectiveness of the various components of MbE newsletters, (iv) the delivery mechanism, and, (v) possible improvements to the newsletter.

    The evaluation methodology comprised two voluntary online subscriber surveys and regular written feedback from the evaluation team on successive issues of the newsletter. Details of survey questions were negotiated between the evaluation team and the CSIRO personnel. Written feedback identified some early concerns with the level of sophistication of early issues and offered educational, mathematical and layout advice on the various newsletter components.

    An initial survey in May 2010 attracted 586 respondents, self-identified as teachers, parents and students, with interests at upper primary, lower secondary and senior secondary levels of schooling. Analysis of survey data suggested a high level of satisfaction by respondents with the newsletter‟s characteristics and significant progress towards achieving the stated aims. The various components of the newsletters were well-received, especially the Hands-on Activity, the Feature Article and the Brain Teasers. Questions asked specifically of teachers provided evidence that the materials were being successfully used in classrooms at all levels, especially in the target age group. As the survey was completed after many subscribers had seen only a few issues, the data were regarded as providing formative feedback to the publishers.

    The second survey in October/November 2010 repeated many of the same questions, although more detailed information was obtained regarding the perceived effects of the newsletter on subscriber views, identified as the principal aim of Maths by Email. The survey attracted 902 responses from subscribers, with a good spread across categories such as levels of school interest and from teachers, parents and students. Teachers comprised around half the respondents.

    Responses were similar to those in the first survey, and the same high levels of satisfaction with the newsletter and its various components were reported. As in the initial survey, around 95% of respondents reported that they would recommend a subscription for Maths by Email to others. The analysis of perceived effects of the newsletter on attitudes towards mathematics suggested that large proportions of readers reported positive changes in attitudes towards the relevance and beauty of mathematics, interest in mathematics and careers related to mathematics. Most of the rest of the respondents already had positive attitudes towards these, suggesting that there is a ceiling effect involved. Detailed analyses of written responses to open survey question have explored the ways in which teachers use the newsletter and materials successfully with students and colleagues as well as subscriber advice for further refinements and improvements.

    A series of specific recommendations encourage the publishers to retain the newsletter in its current format, which appears to be very successful and well received by the overwhelming majority of subscribers. Advice is also offered regarding publicising the newsletter more widely to ensure that the good work is taken advantage of by a wider community of students, teachers and others.

    Publication Type: Report
    Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
    Publisher: Murdoch University. Centre for Learning, Change and Developement
    Copyright: 2010 Murdoch University. Centre for Learning, Change and Development
    URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/6838
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