An increasing number of students are struggling to keep up with the maths content in the crucial first months of their degree, despite the measures lecturers are taking to continually adapt their teaching to try and meet the increasingly diverse needs of their learners.

The problem isn’t new

Every year, more and more students arrive at university lacking the maths skills to succeed on their course. A Queen’s University Belfast study from 2017 showed that mathematics fluency has seen a general decline amongst undergraduates by up to 25-40% over the last 20 years1.

Lack of numeracy ability can impact on student confidence, motivation, engagement, mental health, retention and, ultimately, career progression post-graduation.

Is the way maths skills are taught creating barriers to students’ learning?

A study with Cranfield University2 highlights the need to embed practices that develop maths confidence and skills within teaching:

“It’s not good enough to just upload a link to the VLE and expect that the students will use it. We must embed it, and tie it into the learning very clearly, because then that really drives the students to go into it, to reinforce what they’ve been taught in the classroom.“ Dr Denyse Julien, Course Director, Cranfield University.

But alternative approaches can lead to better outcomes

The “maths problem” is complex. There is no silver bullet. Add to that overstretched educators and external pressures, it can be very difficult to provide the standard of teaching needed to prevent these students from falling through the cracks and really enable them to progress.

A good first step is to understand the individual issues facing your institution then leverage networks, insights and best practice to identify how and where to make improvements.

Does your numeracy strategy suffer through limitations?

You can access your own tailored report based on your current approaches and provision, alongside industry insights and best practice, by simply taking this short Numeracy Support Strategy questionnaire.

In under five minutes, you’ll receive a personalised review that can help you identify how to improve the support your students need to reduce maths anxiety, improve engagement, and give them the confidence to achieve their full potential.

1 Declines in Numeracy Skill among University Students: Why Does it Matter? LeFevre, Douglas and Wylie, Queen’s University Belfast, 2017

2 Pearson case study: MyLab in Accounting, Maths and Operations Management, Cranfield University UK