Pre-university informal engagement with mathematical activities and the decision to study mathematics at university

Katie Steckles, Peter Rowlett, Angharad Ugonna


A survey was created to investigate the experiences of mathematics undergraduates with informal mathematical activity prior to starting university, and links these with the decision to study mathematics. A questionnaire was completed by a small sample of first-year undergraduates at two UK universities. Generally, incoming undergraduates are shown to have a high level of enjoyment of mathematics and engagement with informal mathematical activity. Popular activities included mathematical puzzles and games, and online videos about maths. Students were often engaged with family or via social media, playing computer, tablet or phone games, watching TV game shows with mathematical aspects and participating in organised competitions. Only around half engaged via talks or workshops organised through school and watching more structured documentaries or videos of lectures. Few participated in organised clubs. It seems there was greater engagement with ‘fun’ aspects of mathematics than with activities which demonstrate mathematics linked to career choice. The link to goals of outreach and similar initiatives is discussed, with further research indicated.


outreach; university; engagement; informal learning

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