Further Mathematics, student choice and transition to university: part 2—non-mathematics STEM degrees

Lyakhova, Sofya and Neate, Andrew (2021). Further Mathematics, student choice and transition to university: part 2—non-mathematics STEM degrees. Teaching Mathematics and its Applications: An International Journal of the IMA, 40(3) pp. 210–233.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/teamat/hrab004

Abstract

This is the second paper reporting the results of a study investigating student choices of optional post-16 advanced-level (A-level) Mathematics and Further Mathematics qualifications in the UK and their impact on the transition from school to university mathematics. Here, the opinions of non-mathematics Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) undergraduate students (all of whom had previously studied A-level Mathematics) were accessed via a survey and individual interviews. The study found that Further Mathematics qualifications are perceived as advantageous for non-mathematics STEM degrees by students once they are at university but not when making A-level choices. While the students often perceived mathematics positively, this appears to influence the choice of A-level Mathematics but not Further Mathematics. The lack of support from teachers and parents, the lack of perceived utility of Further Mathematics qualifications and a perception that Further Mathematics is only useful for studying a mathematics degree could all be factors affecting the uptake of Further Mathematics. The identified perceived impact of Further Mathematics on the university transition is linked to studying more pure mathematics which may give students a better understanding of how to apply mathematics in the context of their degree.

Some comparisons between the findings in Parts 1 and 2 of the study are included which suggests that the Further Mathematics qualification is better serving students intending to study a non-mathematics STEM degree rather than mathematics itself.

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