Does flexibility in secondary level mathematics curriculum affect degree performance?

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The authors have much experience in developing mathematics skills of first-year engineering students and attempting to ensure a smooth transition from secondary school to university. Concerns exist due to there being flexibility in the choice of modules needed to obtain a secondary level (A-level) mathematics qualification. This qualification is based on some core (pure maths) modules and a selection from mechanics and statistics modules. A survey of aerospace and mechanical engineering students in Queen’s University Belfast revealed that a combination of both mechanics and statistics (the basic module in both) was by far the most popular choice and therefore only about one quarter of this cohort had studied mechanics beyond the basic module within school maths. Those students who studied the extra mechanics and who achieved top grades at school subsequently did better in two core, first-year engineering courses. However, students with a lower grade from school did not seem to gain any significant advantage in the first-year engineering courses despite having the extra mechanics background. This investigation ties in with ongoing and wider concerns with secondary level mathematics provision in the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 9th International CDIO Conference, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Place of PublicationCambridge, Massachusetts
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • mathematics
  • mechanics
  • curriculum
  • first-year
  • engineering
  • A-level


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