network for excellence in
    mathematics and statistics support

Maths support: Who needs it and why – 27 June 2014

The sigma Midlands Hub held an event, Maths support – Who needs it and why at The University of Wolverhampton, Walsall campus on Friday 27 June, starting at 10:30am.

This event was aimed at those who have liaised with academics based in the subjects whose students use maths support. Participants shared their experiences and the impact this has had on their support centres. A representative from FE presented to give a fuller picture of the skills undergraduate students may typically possess in mathematics and statistics. A case study of collaborative work done at Wolverhampton University with Nurses was presented as an example of good practice. There was ample opportunity for discussion highlighting good practice and issues that are common across support centres.

There were 12 participants from the following institutions: Aston University, BCU, Staffordshire University, The University of Wolverhampton, Cardiff University, Bath University and a contracted Lecturer from the FE sector.

Discussion regarding secondary and tertiary mathematics, including GCSE, A-Level and BTech engineering
A sample of assessments from A-Level Mathematics, GCSE Mathematics and the mathematics on BTech level 3 Engineering were used as the basis for discussion.

There was some surprise at the level of structure provided in A-Level mathematics papers, the low pass marks required for some GCSE mathematics papers and the differing practices reported when assessing the mathematics in the BTech Engineering courses.

A more structured talk regarding how mathematics is taught in schools was given.

Discussion of good practice working with other subjects
A case study of working with Nurses who were struggling with drug calculations was provided as the basis for discussion of working with other subjects. Working with groups rather than one-to-one was felt to be a more effective way of conducting maths support for these types of issues.

Issues in offering mathematics support for other subjects
One issue discussed at length regarded being asked to come into classes to teach mathematics. The fine line between doing this and service teaching was highlighted. Maths support is free for the subjects we work with: Is this a request to do service teaching with no financial recharge?

Issues in offering statistics support for other subjects
The usual issues of students being asked to complete relatively advanced statistics in final year projects without the underpinning knowledge was discussed at length. It was suggested that we need to identify subjects where this occurs frequently and offer assistance in their course development so it can include preparatory work for students to complete before their dissertation.

Ruth Fairclough, sigma Midlands Hub coordinator