Degree of difficulty

6th July 2007 at 01:00
Maths experts met at St Andrews Univer-sity last week to tackle the growing problem of students who struggle with the mathematical component of their degree subject.

The trend, which is affecting students across the UK, has a variety of causes.

Christie Marr, head of the Mathematics Support Centre at the university, 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," she said. "Students arrive at university having followed different syllabuses and often different educational systems. Additionally, in the sciences, some students may enter directly into second year."

Forty delegates from higher education institutions considered:

* Existing models for providing maths support, including large and small drop in centres, an appointment-based system, and a maths cafe.

* Existing resources, commercial and freely available, including material produced by mathcentre, mathtutormechanicstutor, mathletics and Mathematics for Economics-Enhancing Teaching and Learning.

* Subject-specific issues within biology, chemistry, economics, medical sciences, nursing physics and psychology.

* Employability, retention, and the student's learning experience.

The conference was sponsored by the Maths, Stats and Operational Research subject centre of the Higher Education Academy, and by the Wilkinson Charitable Trust.

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