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E-learning and The Maths Problem

About the maths problem

Many programmes in Higher Education require a foundational understanding of mathematics. Subjects such as Engineering or Economics require a significant grasp of mathematical or statistical concepts on which to build further learning. Many First Year non-mathematics students are required to complete several intensive maths courses in order to progress in their subject of choice. These modules can provide a stumbling block for students who lack confidence, ability or motivation in the subject, placing their broader study in jeopardy and risking future career choices.

In addition, many foundational mathematics courses include a broad cross-section of students from different backgrounds and varying levels of mathematical understanding.

This issue is further exacerbated by a larger influx of international students who may have followed very different national mathematics curricula.

Foundation mathematics courses are often mandatory for First Year students, creating large classrooms - often significantly larger than for regular courses. Teachers therefore struggle with the following:

  • Low levels of student activity;
  • Poor engagement;
  • Difficulties in managing a large group of students;
  • Unsatisfactory final grades.

Teachers have the difficult task of ensuring that large, diverse and unmotivated groups of students reach the desired learning goals, while building a foundation of knowledge and skills necessary for them to succeed in the rest of their studies.

Purpose of this paper

SOWISO is determined to change the state of affairs for maths based learning in Higher Education. Through a personalized online learning platform, SOWISO works with professors, teachers and students to improve mathematics learning and understanding.

We believe that the use of a digital online learning platform is perfectly suited to the context of maths learning within modern universities. The scalability of technology combined with interactive and enjoyable learning activities means that teaching can be leveraged for large classes of diverse students. Our platform combines many technologies at the forefront of pedagogical development including learning analytics, peer support and interactive, randomized testing underpinned by theories of blended learning and flipping the classroom.

Our platform has helped hundreds of institutions and thousands of students over 10 years. This has provided us with some fascinating insights into the implementation of online learning platforms into institutions, with a particular focus on mathematics learning. This paper considers some key teaching issues that emerge through implementation of online maths learning platforms and some methods to manage these issues. In effect it is a summary of everything we’ve learned over the last few years, which has only served to reinforce our conviction that an interactive, online learning platform is the best way to assist Higher Education institutions in teaching maths, particularly to non-mathematics students.

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