1 Dec 2016

New project to improve Foundation Mathematics across Loughborough’s STEM curriculum launched this month

The Mathematics Education Centre (MEC) will recruit four student interns to take part in a project to promote mathematical understanding of Foundation science and engineering students to enable them to progress onto the STEM programme of their choice.

Students in the Foundation Programme will engage with tasks, designed by staff and interns, to promote their learning of mathematical topics complex numbers and matrices.

Organiser Professor Barbara Jaworski said the £130,000 project, which is part funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), would use visual graphics to explain traditional mathematical concepts.

She said: “The students who come to the Foundation Programme are those who don’t yet have the qualifications for the area they want to study – for example, engineering or science.

“The tasks will be designed to enhance different concepts by offering the students visual examples, which could benefit them in addition to their regular lectures”

Prof Jaworski said the course is funded for a year, and aims to involve the undergraduate interns in the planning, design and teaching of the course.

“We have two aims,” she said. “We want to design tasks for students in two areas of the curriculum – complex number and matrices.

“But the second part is that we want to employ four of last year’s foundation students – those who are now engaged in their chosen area of study – and we want to work with them, as partners, to design some tasks using a computer package.”

The software the department will use to create the tasks is called Autograph – a platform which allows users to design specific educational mathematics challenges for students.

Part of the funding will go towards securing the expertise of the computer programme’s designer, Douglas Butler.

The four interns, who are yet to be chosen, will be invited to take part during the coming weeks.

“Once the tasks have been designed, we want to include the interns as partners in teaching,” said Prof Jaworski.

“It will enable them to have a different perception of what it’s like to learn, which will be beneficial to their own degrees.

“It will also allow us to see what happens when those students, or interns, get involved as teachers and we expect to learn from working with them in the design of tasks and tutorials with students.”

All through the scheme, staff at the MEC will be collecting data with a view to reporting the findings at a later date.

Around 150 students are expected to take part in the project.

It is part of a £2.8 million scheme by the HEFCE to develop “small-scale experimental innovations in learning and teaching”.

Some 67 universities were each awarded up to £50,000 from the Catalyst Fund to help boost innovations in learning and teaching for either undergraduate or postgraduate taught provision.

The projects will run for 18 months and aim to address a wide variety of themes including learning analytics, interdisciplinary learning, academic and employability skills, peer-assisted learning, assessment and student co-creation of learning resources.

HEFCE’s Chief Executive, Madeleine Atkins, said: “We were delighted by the level of interest from universities and colleges in developing new ways of working and are pleased to be funding such an exciting range of learning and teaching innovations.

“We look forward to working with the project organisations to share the lessons across the sector.”