Study support for a degree in a mathematical subject

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This guide is suitable for Disability Practitioners and is specific to Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research.

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What is different about mathematical subjects?

The way mathematical content is communicated forms specific barriers for both staff and students. Generic advice can be misleading or difficult to interpret in the context. Some assistive technology and study support practices will not be as effective or may need to be adjusted specifically to work with the mathematical content.

It is also important to understand that there is a steep transition from Secondary Education to Higher Education in this subject and the approaches students have used in the past may no longer be effective.

Finally, students who have chosen to study mathematical subjects at university have usually excelled at mathematics at school. In some cases they may have been much better at mathematics than most other subjects and may define success in very clear terms: completing questions quickly and getting most answers right straight away. At university they may find the content far more challenging and will no longer be 'one of the best in my class at all maths'. This can lead to a sudden drop in confidence and can challenge their identity of 'being good at maths'.

Accessible mathematical content

Mathematical content produced in common document formats may not be accessible using assistive technology and students may not be able to use standard approaches to adapt the document format to their needs. Creating accessible documents which contain mathematics requires extra steps and in some cases a document may need to be converted to a different format for any adaptions or assistive technology to work at all. Not all of these conversions can be carried out automatically and the particular format might need to be chosen based on the adaption the student requires or the assistive technology they are using.

Study skills for mathematical subjects

Students will benefit from some aspects of study skills tutorials, such as managing time and depending on their degree they may benefit from other aspects of general support. However, skills for reading, writing and memory are different in mathematics due to how it is communicated and learnt. Study skills tutors may not be confident in teaching these skills and strategies. They may require professional development and input from other departments such as a Mathematics and Statistics support service.

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