Joanne Eaves

Current student

Course
PhD Student
Study area
Mathematics Education Centre

The Mathematics Education Centre is one of the best places in the UK to conduct research into mathematics. At the end of three years you can honestly say that no-one in the world has more knowledge of your research topic than yourself.

What is your research project about?

"38 + 9 - 7" How did you solve it? "Associativity" is a concept in mathematics that permits an individual to solve the subtraction (9 - 7) before doing the addition (38 + 9). While some individuals are very good in immediately spotting their opportunity to apply knowledge of the concept, others are poor. My research is investigating what makes some people better in knowing and using the associativity concept. So far, I have conducted studies in adults to investigate the role of memory and attention. I have also conducted two intervention studies to see if the ability to use these 'shortcuts' can be improved in a classroom setting. I am currently developing a new measure of associativity, to measure when people first 'identify' the shortcut. This new measure I will then use in future studies. I will also conducte further intervention studies in adults and school-aged children to see how their knowledge of associativity can be improved.

What were you doing before you joined Loughborough?

Before my PhD I worked for the Ministry of Defence for 6 years.

Why did you choose Loughborough?

I chose Loughborough University because of the supervisors for my PhD are very well respected in the field, produce high-quality research and are incredibly friendly. The Mathematics Education Centre where I am based is one of the best places in the UK to conduct research into mathematics.

What do you enjoy the most about studying a PhD with us?

I enjoy being in an environment where thoughts and ideas are generated, and then challenged and critiqued. It is the ability to challenge and evaluate ideas that make a good scholar, and Loughborough fuels that.

Describe what it is like to study a PhD, and how this differs from undergraduate/masters study?

It is different from an MSc/undergraduate because you are the driver of the research - from the papers you read, the experiments you conduct, to the output you generate, it has all stemmed from your own insight. At the end of three years you can honestly say that no-one in the world has more knowledge of your research topic than yourself, and that is impressive.

Describe a day in the life of a PhD student?

The day varies depending on where you are at with your PhD. Typical activities include reading (lots to begin with), designing and conducting experiments, analysing data, writing reports. We also teach, mark work, go to conferences and seminars and training courses.

Why did you decide to undertake a PhD in your area?

I wanted to understand more about how children learn numeracy: Compared to literacy, it is an understudied field.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 years I would like to still be an academic, at the end of my first post-doc.

If you could give one piece of advice to a future PhD student, what would it be?

A PhD is not just a qualification, it is a job that is driven by creativity, critique and passion.