Common Student Ways of Thinking in Tertiary Mathematics: A workshop for university STEM lecturers

The world-renowned Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University will be hosting a day workshop for university STEM lecturers who deliver modules with substantive quantitative components.

Led by Ian Jones (Loughborough University) and Igor’ Kontorovich (University of Auckland).

The workshop is for any lecturer interested in refining their teaching and feedback through engaging with education research and considering the common errors their students make. 

The outcomes for attendees will include:

  • knowledge of what the research says about common student errors in first-year tertiary mathematics;
  • practice at identifying, making sense and responding to such errors;
  • contacts with other lecturers interested in addressing student ways of thinking;
  • familiarisation with the free STACK software for support mathematics assessments and feedback;
  • a written report of outcomes from workshop discussions following the event.

Your hosts

Igor’ Kontorovich is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He was a secondary school teacher and pre-academic mathematics lecturer for seven years before completing a PhD in Mathematics Education at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Since joining the Department of Mathematics at Auckland in 2016 his research has been concerned with ‘tacit’ ways of students’ thinking in mathematics, the ones that have their own logic and are remarkable resilient to change.

Ian Jones is a Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University. He was a school teacher for ten years before completing a PhD in Mathematics Education at the University of Warwick. Since joining Loughborough in 2011 his research has mainly focused on improving the assessment of students’ mathematical thinking.


10:00 Arrival and refreshments
10:30 Presentation: Types of student errors 

Igor’ and Ian will present a summary of research on common student errors. We will consider which errors are trivial slips, and which suggest a conceptual gap or misunderstanding. Research has identified different likely causes for conceptually-based errors including natural number bias, visual saliency and over-generalisation. These different causes can lead to different approaches as to how we help students avoid errors in the future. 

11:30 Break out groups: Classifying student errors Part 1
  Attendees will work in groups to analyse assessment materials and student responses in light of the presentation. The materials and responses will be provided but delegates are welcome to bring their own examples too. The prevalence, importance and possible causes of common student errors will be discerned by break out groups, as well as possible ways to remedy them via student feedback or other methods.
12:30 Lunch

Break out groups: Classifying student errors Part 2

  Continuation from before lunch plus an opportunity for break groups to feedback to the wider workshop.
14:30 Refreshments
15:00 Presentation: Feedback to students using STACK

Ian and Igor’ will present a free and open-source online system for assessing mathematics, called STACK. We will focus on STACK’s unique ability to provide personalised feedback to students’ mathematical responses to test questions. Specifically, we will draw on the outcomes of the day to consider how best to provide feedback to students who make common, conceptually-based errors. Attendees are encouraged to bring laptops to engage with this part of the workshop.

16:00 Conclusion
  Closing comments from Ian, Igor’ and attendees.
16:20 Close


Contact and booking details

Free of charge
Booking required?
Booking information
The workshop is funded by the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. It is free to attend but delegates must register in advance. We will provide refreshments and a lunch. To register email Ian Jones at