The "Mathematics Problem": A Plymouth Foundation Year Case Study

  • Matthew J. Craven University of Plymouth
  • Jenny Sharp University of Plymouth
Keywords: Mathematics, foundation year, Mathematics problem, flipped learning, pastoral care, student voice


Research indicates the transition from school mathematics to university-level STEM courses is often problematic, leading to issues with student satisfaction and retention (the “Mathematics Problem”). An increasing number of HEIs are establishing foundation years in an effort to ameliorate this problem. Undergraduate Mathematics cohorts at Plymouth often contain a sizeable number of ex-foundation year students, meaning that efforts to enhance student foundation year experience are vital to student satisfaction, retention and further recruitment. This paper is a report mid-way through a two-year project to examine a partially-flipped learning approach to improve foundation year retention and mathematical knowledge of those progressing to undergraduate study. A preliminary evaluation of this approach is given by using student voice data obtained through focus groups and surveys, and reflections of staff are examined. This paper is an expansion of the work presented at the Foundation Year Network Annual Conference, 2018, the overarching research question being: “Does the Foundation Year provide an enhanced transition to Mathematics degrees compared with the traditional A-level route?”.


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Author Biographies

Matthew J. Craven, University of Plymouth

Matthew has 13 years of full-time teaching experience at levels from Foundation Year to postgraduate and has been Foundation Year programme manager at the University of Plymouth for the past three years. He is interested in pedagogical research, particularly in pre-university programmes and trans-national education. Email:

Jenny Sharp, University of Plymouth

Jenny has more than 20 years of experience of teaching mathematics at all levels of the degree including Foundation Year and final year Mathematics with Education. She has 23 years’ work with schools in providing mathematical activities for students of all ages from Primary to KS5. Email: