SUPPORTING STUDENTS MAKING THE TRANSITION FROM SCHOOL TO UNIVERSITY – A NATIONAL AND LOCAL VIEW OF THE MATHS SKILLS CRISIS IN THE UK
University of Hertfordshire (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN13 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Conference name: 5th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 1-3 July, 2013
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:For over 20 years commentators in the UK have been lamenting the lack of maths skills among school-leavers. In recent years concern about the scale of the problem has resulted in the publication of many reports from government, scientific bodies and other learned institutions. Between them these reports consider various aspects of the state of maths education in the UK and the consequences of a maths skills shortage for universities, employers and society. Although many of these reports see the issue as having its roots in the maths curriculum and assessment at school-level, and moves are being made to reform the curriculum, the Higher Education sector in the UK is having to deal with the consequences of the maths skills crisis, both in terms of attracting and teaching suitably qualified applicants, and in producing suitably qualified and employable graduates. In the absence of any “quick-fix” solution, it seems unlikely that the situation will improve in the near future.
The authors have first-hand experience of supporting students with weak maths skills making the transition from School to University within a Business School. Not only do large numbers of undergraduate students have difficulty with basic maths, but many students also fail to see the relevance of maths for business. Later in their studies business students also need to be equipped to meet the challenge presented by numerical aptitude tests in order to secure placements or employment.
For many UK universities the way forward is in the provision of additional maths support. This can take various forms, including additional teaching sessions or materials, student mentoring, one-to-one support on a drop-in basis and on-line support. The authors’ own research, based on focus groups and questionnaires, indicates that many students prefer the flexibility of being able to access on-line diagnostic testing and training on a self-help basis, and at the time of need.
In this paper the authors will summarise the key messages and recommendations to emerge from the literature in the light of their own experiences and research findings. We will also give an overview of the types of open source software that are currently available for maths skills support in the UK, and consider ways in which such on-line resources might be utilised in order to encourage and enhance students’ development of maths skills in a Business School context.
Keywords: Flexible learning, transition, skills gap, maths support, quantitative methods, efficacy, open source software.