The objective of this study was to explore how senior mathematical students made sense of their
mathematical experience through the New Zealand National Certificate of Educational Achievement
(NCEA) qualifications system, and from that exploration to understand what factors motivated these
students and to which factors these students attributed their mathematical success.
The research is based on Constructivist Theory, with ethnomethodology as the methodological
approach. The methodological tool utilised in the study was an online questionnaire. The students
who completed the questionnaire attended an urban, co-educational, decile 8 secondary school in
New Zealand. The participants were students aged 16 years old and over, enrolled in a full year
NCEA Level 3 Statistics and Modelling Achievement Standards programme in 2013.
The students in the sample were aware that there were set criteria within each grade for NCEA Level
3 Statistics and Modelling assessment tasks. The students were mindful that achievement was
measured in discrete units. Evidence from the research suggests that to maximise student learning
within the NCEA qualifications system, Level 3 Statistics and Modelling needs to be taught as a
collective, cohesive statistics curriculum.
The students in the sample attributed their highest mathematical outcomes to ability, effort and the
teacher and their lowest mathematical outcomes to lack of ability, lack of effort and the level of
difficulty of the assessment. The findings highlighted the importance of prioritising the teacher and
student relationship. In the study, only 12% of students were convinced that their teacher was
interested in them at an individual level. NCEA Level 3 Statistics and Modelling teachers need to be
aware of the influence of the teacher and student relationship on student achievement.
The findings from the research have implications for teaching and learning. The research evidence
indicates a need for NCEA Level 3 Statistics and Modelling students to be aware of the nonnumerical
content and grade criteria expectations of the Statistics and Modelling Achievement
Standards prior to committing to the course.