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11 May 2005 PR 05/36

Loughborough helps to show school students that maths adds up

With exams just around the corner, hundreds of thousands of GCSE and A-level students across the country are using an imaginative initiative by Loughborough University to help improve their maths skills.

Two pocket-sized cards – which contain the formulae relevant to both the maths GCSE (intermediate/higher) syllabus and the pure maths A-level syllabus – have been developed by the University to help school pupils with their studies.

The handy cards, which fold out to a double-sided sheet, approximately A4 in size, are now being utilised in half of all the schools and colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland providing GCSE and A-level education.

The University’s Faculty of Engineering developed the A-level card initially in 2002 and the University extended the scheme to GCSE level last year, to try and help reignite pupils’ interest in maths.

“The response from teachers and students has been phenomenal,” says Professor Chris Backhouse, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Loughborough. “One student described the cards as ‘the best resource ever’ and many teachers see it as an excellent way of encouraging students to learn.”

As Professor Morag Bell, Pro Vice Chancellor for Teaching, explains, a good understanding of maths is essential. “You need it in everyday life, to get into college or university, and most jobs require it too. An appreciation of maths is therefore crucial for maximising your opportunities in later life.”

In recent years there has been a significant decline in the number of pupils taking A-level maths(1), which is having a knock-on effect on higher education: fewer students with maths A-level means fewer undergraduates studying the subject at university. Maths also underpins many other subjects such as engineering, science and economics; with falling numbers of students choosing maths at A-level, fewer will have the required abilities to study subjects with a maths element in higher education.

These cards have been targeted to reverse this trend.

Sample GCSE cards were originally sent last summer to the head of maths at every school and college in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since then a staggering 450,000 GCSE and 100,000 A-level cards have been ordered by 2,600 schools and colleges.

The cards, which are free of charge, are proving to be a huge hit with both teachers and students alike. Loughborough’s Marketing Manager, Andrew Cooney, explains their popularity. “The cards are popular with students because of their ‘cool’ factor, while teachers see the enormous benefit of their students always having the maths formulae to hand,” he says.

“Our own market research among those using the cards has shown that 96% of students said that they found them very useful for their studies,” Andrew adds.

Demand for the cards is set to grow even more, as Local Education Authorities across the country are starting to request them to encourage all of their schools to use the study aid.

The formulae for both the maths cards were put together by the University’s Mathematics Education Centre. The foldable card itself is a patented design, produced by the company Z-CARD®. The GCSE initiative was developed with support from the 1851 Commission.

Teachers can order the free cards online at www.mathscard.com


Ends

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Notes to editors

  1. The Government-backed report Making Maths Count, by Professor Adrian Smith, published in February 2004, revealed that the number of students taking A-level maths had fallen by around 13% between 1993 and 2003 (in 1993 there were 49,575 A-level entries by 18 year olds in England, and in 2003 there were 42,897)

  2. Samples of the GCSE and A-level maths cards are enclosed.

  3. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place Loughborough in the top flight of UK universities, and industry highlights Loughborough in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 45% of the University’s income is for research. The University has been awarded four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; and for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development.

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