From education to employment

Increase in Uptake of Maths Degrees Pointless Without Project Based Learning

Dr Coorous Mohtadi, Senior Academic Technical Specialist, MathWorks

According to the latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), Maths was one of six subjects whose popularity grew this year, suggesting that the government’s STEM strategy, promoting maths, science and technology, is working.

However, Coorous Mohtadi, Senior Academic Technical Specialist at MathWorks argues that more needs to be done to ensure these students use their STEM skills beyond University in their future careers:

“We welcome the growth in students applying to mathematics at university. It is a sign that the promotion of STEM subjects is bearing fruit and builds on increases in the take up of A-level maths. However, we must do more to ensure this enthusiasm for STEM translates into next generation of STEM talent. But, universities are challenged on doing this. Last year’s Royal Academy of Engineering report “The UK STEM Education Landscape” found that on leaving higher education, fewer than half of UK domiciled engineering students enter professional engineering occupations. This is despite UK industry needing over a million new engineers a year just to replace people who are retiring or leaving the profession (Source: Engineering UK).

“So, to reap the benefits of this STEM student surge, we believe universities need to make their STEM courses contain much more project-based learning. This approach means students can see, hear, and touch what would otherwise be abstract – making their experience more engaging and interesting. These teaching methods really push students with the challenges in problem-solving and creativity that develop the skills future STEM employers desperately seek.

“A great example of this is the Formula Student competition in which student engineers acquire hands-on skills that are directly transferable to real-world automotive design. In fact, Formula Student has become a recognized proving ground for young automotive engineering talent. It is also the only competition of its kind in the world where teams start with nothing and then must conceptualize, design, build, test and race their own formula-style vehicles, and then “show” their work to a panel of judges who determine how well each team explains the logic behind the design process.” 

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