Preparatory math courses: Helping your students navigate the transition to higher education math

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Mathematics is a fundamental subject in many areas of study, from engineering and physics to finance and computer science. However, many students find mathematics challenging and may struggle to keep up with the pace of the coursework.

Preparatory math courses (or summer math courses) can help students build a strong foundation in mathematics and develop the skills they need to succeed in their studies and careers. These courses also facilitate educators teaching this subject by ensuring all students have the necessary entry level.

This blog post will cover the benefits of preparatory math courses for college and university levels. We will also illustrate these advantages with the successful case of Maastricht University, that uses summer math courses to ensure their first-year students start their lessons with the required math level.

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Benefits of preparatory math courses
Maastricht University use case

Photograph of students practicing mathematics

Benefits of preparatory math courses

1. Preparatory math courses help students build a strong foundation

These courses are designed to provide students with a solid foundation in mathematics. Preparatory math courses cover topics such as algebra, calculus, and trigonometry, which are the building blocks of more advanced math courses.

By mastering the basics, students will be better equipped to tackle more complex problems in the future. A strong foundation in math is also essential for students who plan to pursue careers in STEM fields and in other areas like psychology and social sciences. These courses can enable students to get ready for their study programs, preparing them for the rigor that university and college demand.

2. Preparatory math courses enable students to catch up and stay on track

Preparatory math courses can be especially beneficial for students who may have fallen behind in their math coursework. These courses give students the opportunity to review material they may have missed or struggled with in the past. By catching up on these skills, learners can stay on track and prevent future difficulties.

3. Preparatory math courses facilitate educators’ teaching by homogenizing students’ levels

One of the main challenges math teachers face is the diverse backgrounds of their students. Therefore, preparatory math courses can guarantee every learner meets the minimum requirements to follow the lessons. This minimizes students’ negative emotions and the time educators spend explaining the basics while allowing everyone to participate actively.

4. Preparatory math courses reduce anxiety and boost confidence

Math anxiety is a common problem among students. Preparatory math courses can help alleviate this anxiety by providing them with a safe and supportive environment to learn and practice math.

Technology can be an ally in reducing math anxiety in these courses. Thanks to features like personalized feedback and randomization, students can practice as much as they want, building confidence in their math abilities while developing their skills.

Personalized feedback GIF

Personalized automated feedback in SOWISO

5. Preparatory math courses can improve critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Mathematics requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Preparatory math courses help students develop these skills by providing opportunities to solve challenging problems.

These courses can also teach students to approach problems systematically, break them down into smaller parts, and use logic and reasoning to find solutions. These skills are transferable to other subjects and can be useful in many areas of life.

Use case: How Maastricht University helps first-year students reach the required level with summer math courses

The Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE) offers an online preparatory math course to support students in having a smooth start to their bachelor’s programme in September. Here we will present how this institution solves this challenge with SOWISO, an online learning and testing environment for STEM.


Maastricht University is the most international university in the Netherlands. This means their students have a wide range of mathematical backgrounds and significant differences in math proficiency.

Since educators use a problem-based learning approach for their SBE programmes, they need students to have an equivalent level. Their method involves small student groups (12-14 people) coached by a tutor. While this facilitator has a support role, learners are expected to collaborate, brainstorm, and see how they can find solutions.

As the coordinator of these math preparatory courses, Dirk Tempelaar, explains:

“To solve these problems, it’s essential that all students can be active, so instructors need everyone to have similar prior knowledge. It’s too difficult if there are students whose level is higher because then others won’t be able to participate in the discussions.”

Photograph of Maastricht University School of Business and Economics

Photograph of Maastricht University School of Business and Economics


The Maastricht University School of Business and Economics offers applicants intermediate and advanced summer math courses. Students can work on these preparatory courses online, whenever and wherever.

Since Maastricht University teachers have found that the problem of students with math deficiencies has become stronger and stronger, they started asking applicants to take the course plus an in-house exam with SOWISO. Now, students who don’t meet the math requirements take OMPT, an online math admission test developed by our in-house mathematicians.

Apart from applicants who need to improve their math level, students who are proficient, but are concerned about passing the first difficult courses, also take these summer math courses.


Maastricht University teachers are glad to allow their students to practice as much as they want at their convenience. As Dirk Tempelaar expressed:

“Since our students are from all over the world, they need a flexible course they can take from home anytime. It is a must that they can do it online with the flexibility that SOWISO provides.”

Since this digital platform gives students personalized feedback and grades them automatically, these unlimited practice and learning opportunities don’t increase teachers’ workload. Finally, although factors like students’ motivation levels could influence these results, students who participate in the summer math course do substantially better than students that don’t participate in them.

Read the full use case

Photograph of Maastricht University School of Business and Economics

Do you have any doubts about how to implement preparatory math courses for college and university levels? Do you need assistance to host a summer math course? You can book a teacher demo to discuss your teaching needs with one of our experts.

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