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Making it all add up

Maths experts from across the UK met at the University of St Andrews for a conference to debate the growing national problem of students who struggle with the mathematical component of their degree subject.

The problem which is affecting students across the UK, across all ability levels and at all stages of study, has a variety of causes.

Dr Christie Marr, head of the recently established Mathematics Support Centre at the University of St Andrews which hosted the event, explained that even students heading for a First may need clarification on a particular topic or application.

“We can’t assume a level playing field when it comes to mathematical background.

“Students arrive at university having followed different syllabuses and often come from different educational systems.

“Additionally in the sciences some students may enter directly into second year,” said Dr Marr.

Forty senior level delegates from higher education institutions discussed ways of tackling these problems at the conference.

The delegates considered:

  • Existing models for providing Mathematics Support, including large and small drop-in centres, an appointment-based system, a Maths Café.
  • Existing resources, both commercial and freely available, including material produced by mathcentre, mathtutor/mechanicstutor, mathletics and METAL (Mathematics for Economics-Enhancing Teaching and Learning)
  • Subject specific issues e.g. within Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Physics and Psychology, as well as Medical Sciences and Nursing.
  • Employability, retention, and the student learning experience.

Speakers included Professor Celia Hoyles OBE, Government Chief Adviser for Mathematics, Chair of the London Mathematics Centre, and Professor of Mathematics Education at the London Institute of Education; Professor Duncan Lawson, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Engineering and Computing at Coventry University and Director of the Coventry Mathematics Support Centre designated by HEFCE as a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL); Dr Tony Croft, Founder and Director of the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University also designated by HEFCE as a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).

The conference was sponsored by the Maths, Stats and OR subject centre of the Higher Education Academy (MSOR), and by the Wilkinson Charitable Trust.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

Dr Christie Marr is available for interview and can be contacted on 01334 462141.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Press Office – contact Marion Gibson 01334 462167or 07834 446970.

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