A whole-of-curriculum approach to improving nursing students' applied numeracy skills

Thea F. Van de Mortel, Leeann P. Whitehair, Pauletta M. Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Nursing students often perform poorly on numeracy tests. Whilst one-off interventions have been trialled with limited success, a whole-of-curriculum approach may provide a better means of improving applied numeracy skills. Objective: The objective of the study is to assess the efficacy of a whole-of-curriculum approach in improving nursing students' applied numeracy skills. Design: Two cycles of assessment, implementation and evaluation of strategies were conducted following a high fail rate in the final applied numeracy examination in a Bachelor of Nursing (BN) programme. Strategies included an early diagnostic assessment followed by referral to remediation, setting the pass mark at 100% for each of six applied numeracy examinations across the programme, and employing a specialist mathematics teacher to provide consistent numeracy teaching. Setting: The setting of the study is one Australian university. Participants: 1035 second and third year nursing students enrolled in four clinical nursing courses (CNC III, CNC IV, CNC V and CNC VI) were included. Methods: Data on the percentage of students who obtained 100% in their applied numeracy examination in up to two attempts were collected from CNCs III, IV, V and VI between 2008 and 2011. A four by two χ2 contingency table was used to determine if the differences in the proportion of students achieving 100% across two examination attempts in each CNC were significantly different between 2008 and 2011. Results: The percentage of students who obtained 100% correct answers on the applied numeracy examinations was significantly higher in 2011 than in 2008 in CNC III (χ2=272, 3; p<0.001), IV (χ2=94.7, 3; p<0.001) and VI (χ2=76.3, 3; p<0.001). Conclusions: A whole-of-curriculum approach to developing applied numeracy skills in BN students resulted in a substantial improvement in these skills over four years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-467
Number of pages6
JournalNurse Education Today
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


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