Further Mathematics, student choice and transition to university: part 1 - Mathematics degrees

Lyakhova, Sofya and Neate, Andrew (2019). Further Mathematics, student choice and transition to university: part 1 - Mathematics degrees. Teaching Mathematics and its Applications: An International Journal of the IMA, 38(4) pp. 167–190.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/teamat/hry013

Abstract

The transition from studying mathematics at school to university is known to be challenging for students. Given the desire to increase participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects at degree level, it is important to ensure that the school mathematics curriculum is providing suitable preparation for the challenges ahead, and yet remains both accessible and popular. This two-part study investigates student choices of studying the post-16 A-level Mathematics and Further Mathematics qualifications in the UK and their impact on the transition from school to university mathematics. Student opinions were accessed via a survey of undergraduate students and also individual interviews. This first part of the study considers the responses of mathematics undergraduate students and finds that both those who studied Further Mathematics and those who did not perceive studying Further Mathematics as advantageous for their degree courses. However, the advantages identified mostly relate to the familiarity with topics, while students still feel unprepared for studying more abstract and proof-based mathematics. The study found that some factors which may be beneficial for transition currently lie outside the mainstream school mathematics syllabus and include studying through blended learning provided by the Further Mathematics Support Programme, practicing more advanced extension exam papers and attending university outreach events. The choice of Further Mathematics is found to be influenced by the attitudes of the students, their teachers and their parents, to both mathematics as a subject and to Further Mathematics as a qualification as well as student perceptions of Further Mathematics and their plans in terms of degree and university choice.

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