A civic university's approach to the 'mathematics problem' in society

Atkins, Nigel, May, Steve, Marks-Maran, Diane and Gay, Jane (2008) A civic university's approach to the 'mathematics problem' in society. Journal of Access Policy and Practice, 6(1), pp. 21-34. ISSN (print) 1740-1348


This article highlights the ways in which one institution is seeking to address the issue of declining mathematical ability amongst students and the knock-on effects this has to wider society through a range of initiatives stemming from its mission as a civic university. A review of the current literature illustrates the range of interpretations of the role of a civic university and a number of common factors are identified. In addition, literature on the state of mathematics in society indicates that the changing nature of the student population and attitudes of professionals towards teaching and learning has led to the identification of a key set of issues which are in the process of being addressed. These include the dramatic fall in the number of students who were studying A-level and Further Mathematics; the declining number and quality of students entering degree programmes with a strong mathematical element; the lack of qualified mathematics teachers and the need for changes to the mathematics curriculum. This report outlines the specific ways in which one institution is tackling the issues through the development of a university course for non mathematics graduates aiming to become teachers; the provision of Further Mathematics courses for students pre-entry; and the addition of mathematics education and teaching options to the final year modules for students studying mathematics at the university. It demonstrates how the university as an institution, its students and the local community in particular are benefiting from this civic university approach.

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