Making maths add up

A team at SheffieldHallamUniversityhas started a three year study to review how universities across the country teach mathematics subjects with the aim of making the mathematics curriculum more flexible and attractive.

The More Mathematics Graduates Project was launched earlier this year with the help of £3.3m of government funding to help solve the tricky problem of the fall in the number of students taking up the subject at university.

Between now and 2010, the researchers will look at what the courses contain, how students are assessed and how motivational the courses are.

‘The aim of the project is to improve the attainment of mathematics at GCSE, AS and A levels and to encourage and increase the number of students progressing into studying higher education mathematics or mathematical sciences,’ said Dr Neil Challis from the Mathematics team.

‘There is a great diversity between HEI maths courses, ranging from highly theoretical pure maths to practical, problem solving approaches. We are looking at the curriculum not just regionally but nationally as well,’ he added.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that the overall number of students choosing mathematical sciences at degree level has dropped from 9,196 in 1998 to 7,985 in 2004, a 13 per cent drop.

Sheffield Hallam’s partners in the project are Queen Mary University of London, CoventryUniversity and LeedsUniversity. They will be focusing their attention more on mathematics in schools and on careers for mathematicians.