Choosing Further Mathematics

Tanner, Howard; Lyakhova, Sofya and Neate, Andrew (2016). Choosing Further Mathematics. Cylchgrawn Addysg Cymru / Wales Journal of Education, 18(2)



'Education in the UK is failing to provide the increases in the numbers of school-leavers with science and mathematics qualifications required by industry, business and the research community to assure the UK's future economic competitiveness' (The Royal Society, 2008: 17). Furthermore, the proportion of students in Wales following mathematics courses post 16 is lower than in England (GSR, 2014). In particular, although the situation has improved, fewer students in Wales choose to study further mathematics (FM). This paper explores the reasons for student choices in mathematics and FM in order to make recommendations about how to increase participation. Phase one of the study used a questionnaire to access the opinions of students studying mathematically based courses in sixth forms and colleges to explore the reasons behind their choices and the factors influencing their progression or otherwise in mathematics. In phase two, small focus groups of students in selected schools and colleges were interviewed to enrich the questionnaire data and provide further insight into their decisions. The study identified a lack of information from peers, siblings, parents and teachers about FM as a factor restricting choice. Current models of delivery contribute to the false perception that FM is harder than mathematics and only suitable for the most talented mathematicians. We suggest: developing teachers' knowledge and skills so that whenever possible students can be offered FM as a fully timetabled subject; promoting FM to parents; and establishing student champions to encourage participation.

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