Think You're Done With Maths At Uni? Think Again...

3rd October 2017

Congratulations! You've made it through 13 years of schooling, and you are finally at University! ConquerMaths helped you gain the marks you needed, and perhaps you have chosen a fairly 'non-mathematical' course. You may think that the maths intensive part of your life is over, and you are ready for university life. However, you may not be anywhere near as prepared as you think.

Increasingly nowadays, many university subjects outside of full maths degrees require high levels of numeracy and a solid understanding of statistics, particularly for those degrees employing quantitative research and statistical analysis methods.

This includes disciplines such as the social sciences, medicine, business, design/engineering, and computing among many others.

Dame Julia Higgins, who chairs the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME), explains that "In the last 30 years, many university subjects have become more mathematical but the number of students with the appropriate level of mathematical skills has not risen far enough to match this."

For example, Psychology, one of the UKs most popular degrees, involves a surprising amount of mathematics - mainly in the areas of statistical analysis in which students learn the practical application of mathematics in research.

This requires understanding of algebra, statistics, data handling and probability. Statistics and data handling are important aspects of many 'non-mathematical' degrees - any course which requires research or data analysis will require students to be able to process and understand the numbers.

Not What People Expect

Some other examples of 'non-mathematical' degrees requiring maths which may surprise you include:

Archaeology, Medicine, Business Studies, Retail Management, Urban Planning, Computing...

...Architecture, Political Science, Biology, Engineering, Teaching, Sociology, Sports Science...

...Psychology, Pharmacology, Chemistry, History, Software Development and Marketing.

So when many students begin their course, they are shocked at the maths skills that are expected of them and sadly some simply cannot cope and drop out, or end up changing their degree.

With the current level of tuition fees many students have to drop out and not return to higher education which is such a waste of time, money and effort all round.

The majority of these basic skills are covered by ConquerMaths but on leaving school students assume they no longer need any help from the program!

Importance De-valued

Many students do not seem to be at all well informed about the mathematical requirements of their desired courses, thinking that because the entry requirements do not require a maths A-level then that is the end of it. But often, as indeed in life itself, the maths required can be substantial.

A report published by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) said some universities are neglecting to fully "advertise the level of maths needed to comfortably study particular subjects for fear of hindering applications" so some level of ignorance is understandable but it is a student’s responsibility to know roughly what they will be studying.

(ACME) states that nearly two-thirds of students on courses needing post-GCSE maths do not have those skills. That means a lot of panicking new university students!

A few Universities are cutting back on the parts of some courses which demand maths skills because students cannot handle them. However, if the necessary maths is removed from the course, graduates will enter the job market with a great disadvantage and that seems counterintuitive!

Currently most universities try to offer remedial help. However, even with such a solid emphasis on the importance of STEM, extra learning provisions for maths vary greatly between institutions, and are often over-subscribed or inadequate.

Associate Professor Geoffrey Wake from the University of Nottingham explains that, "Different teaching styles of university lecturers and the need for autonomously-managed learning, where students need to learn some mathematical content of their courses on their own without input from lecturers, also came as a bit of a shock for many students." You just need to be aware that you need to put in that bit extra work and you’ll be fine but nobody is going to hold your hand – except for ConquerMaths of course!

Apart from anything else, students often find that they also underestimate just how much maths they will need now they have left home and have to budget for rent, food shopping, transport, academic supplies etc. You’d be surprised how much maths there is involved with caring for yourself as an adult!

How To Cope

To cope, find out as much as you can, as soon as you can. Carefully read your course specs and speak to your course leader about what mathematical content to expect. Very importantly, be honest - if you are worried about your maths skills than say so early on.

Find out what support services are available at your institution, and register as soon as you arrive. Ultimately the best thing you can do is re-new your subscription to ConquerMaths. The consistent format of ConquerMaths will be reassuring when faced with new lecturers and content, and you can easily go back to any past topics to make sure you understand the basics required for your course. Brushing up past skills can help tremendously, in and out of the lecture hall.

With access to ConquerMaths, you can feel confident that you have access to every past topic to ensure you have a good grounding in maths, and anything further should be explained within your course. The important thing is that with the support of ConquerMaths you will not be left at a disadvantage.

So Keep Calm, Good luck, and Enjoy University life with ConquerMaths!