The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

7.1 Case Study 1: Maths diagnostic test

At several points it has been suggested that an initial screening test can be extremely helpful in identifying students who need more support, either in a dedicated module or in longer workshops. The following maths diagnostic test has been developed at the University of Bradford. This test is included within this chapter as it may provide useful guidance to staff in other institutions considering introducing maths screening. A similar approach could be taken in relation to statistics.

Please note that the University of Bradford has a minimum entry requirement of GCSE grade C in maths. The pass threshold currently used is 70%. All students below this are required to take the first semester preliminary maths module.

A note of caution: this test format may not be appropriate in a different institutional context even if the maths entry requirement is identical. You should reflect on the appropriateness of any test based on the skills required of your students given the demands of your programme.

7.2 Case Study 2: Preliminary maths module

Following the maths diagnostic test students may be selected to attend a preliminary maths module. The syllabus and assessment schedule adopted at the University of Bradford is listed below. A few points to note:

  1. This material is foundation level so if a similar module were put on at another institution there would need to be a facility for students taking credits out of stage/year.
  2. The level of the material of the module indicated below is such that there needs to be serious consideration of appropriate staffing. School/college maths teachers are ideal for delivery at this level.
  3. The module below does not have a ‘big’ final exam. Instead, the assessment is reasonably evenly spread over the teaching weeks to ensure continuous engagement. Note that ensuring engagement is very important for weaker ability students who often find material ‘hard’ and ‘boring’. Nevertheless there is significant staff marking burden as well as the organisation of the test slots.
  4. There needs to be clear accompanying material for students, such as practice booklets. It is important that students are encouraged to keep their practice booklets, with their own notes, for future reference.

Weekly Plan

Week

Topics

Assessment

2

Number:
Order of calculation
Negative numbers
Fractions
 

3

Decimals
Percentages & interest
 

4

Converting between fractions, decimals and percentages
Decimal places & sig figs (rounding)
Ratio

Test – 30%

 

Directed Study Week

 

6

Introduction to Algebra:
Writing expressions
Solving linear equations
Simplifying expressions
Multiply out brackets
 
7
Powers & roots
Financial maths
 

8

More Algebra:
Linear factorisation
Function Notation
Formula substitution
Re-arranging expressions
 

9

Multiply out 2 brackets
Quadratic equations:
Solve by formula
Discuss factorisation (for easier ones) if time.

Test – 30%

10

Geometry:
Straight line graphs: sketching by  finding intercepts
 

11

Sketching curves

 

12

Revision

Final Test – 40%