Getting a grip on Mathematical Symbolism

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Course Date: 15 September 2014

Price: free

Course Summary

Want to be an engineer or scientist? Lack mathematical confidence? Learn to think mathematically and explore essential concepts.


Estimated Workload: 2 hours pw

Course Instructors

Tony Croft (Educator)

Professor of Mathematics Education at Loughborough University specialising in mathematics for engineers and mathematics support for students who find university mathematics particularly challenging.

Profile Tony Croft (Educator)

Professor of Mathematics Education at Loughborough University specialising in mathematics for engineers and mathematics support for students who find university mathematics particularly challenging.

Course Description

This course is aimed at those who aspire to study science or engineering foundation courses at university level. It draws upon the experience of staff from the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University - a centre that has specialised for many years in mathematics teaching and mathematics support for science and engineering students who find the transition to university mathematics particularly challenging.

Through an accessible introduction to graphical and algebraic techniques students will start to think mathematically and develop an informal understanding of vital properties of points, lines and curves before formalising mathematically some of these essential notions. We adopt a user-friendly approach and describe mathematical processes in everyday language. New ideas are developed by example and discovery rather than by formal proof. Further development will introduce the equation of a line and the significance of its slope and vertical intercept.

The course will close by reinforcing the importance of mathematics to science and engineering. It will pave the way into the study of calculus by explaining that engineers and scientists need to build upon the ideas introduced in order to describe, analyse and predict the behaviour of physical, biological and technological systems.

What will you do ?

  • watch video explanations of key mathematical ideas
  • hear from leading scientists and engineers about the importance of mathematics to their work
  • watch fully worked mathematical examples
  • try and solve mathematics problems yourself
  • learn how to plot points and straight line graphs and use these lines to solve problems
  • test your progress with quizzes
  • try and apply what you have learned
  • share ideas with other students on the course
  • prepare yourself well for embarking upon a science or engineering course

This course will also give you the opportunity to purchase a Statement of Participation.

You can use the hashtag #FLmathsfoundation to join and contribute to social media conversations about this course.

Professor Tony Croft has written a blog post which talks about the role this new free online course might play in starting to address an urgent national skills shortage in the UK.

Course Workload

2 hours pw

Course Prerequisites

The course is designed for students who have some engineering or science knowledge gained through vocational qualifications or through workplace experience but who perhaps have not studied mathematics formally since leaving school. It will be appropriate for those who lack confidence but who need to establish a bedrock of knowledge in order to further their education. To gain the most from the course it will be necessary to plot some graphs (graph paper will be provided). Please note that this is a foundation, entry-level course and is not intended for those who already possess recent post-GCCE mathematics qualifications.

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