A formula for better maths engagement

Maths can be a frustrating subject for students, and many withdraw from higher level mathematics at school. Not surprisingly, many undergrads feel unprepared when starting their science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses, feel discouraged and drop out.

Passionate about fighting the bad rep of maths, UTS Curriculum Developer at the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Jason Stanley, launched an intervention as part of a pathway mentoring project, an initiative of the UTS Mathematics and Science Study Centre . The centre has a long history of supporting students in their transition process from school to university and has successfully increased student performance and retention. This intervention goes a step further in bringing quality teacher framework approaches to first year mathematics, supported by sound research approaches.

“Many students don’t feel a sense of belonging in the mathematics space, often due to past learning in which they experienced injustice, discrimination or failure.

“As a result they fall through the cracks somewhere along the way and are left behind, and I asked myself: why is that okay?,” he says.

Having struggled with maths at school himself, Jason decided to use his experience as school educator to help aspiring STEM students in the transition from school to university. He started out as part of a team, led by Dr Mary Coupland, launching two pathway projects at UTS to mentor first year STEM students and help them cope with the coursework through tutoring sessions – but his sessions weren’t just about maths.

“The students’ wellbeing is as important as their academic performance. It’s important to understand their past experiences with math at school, and understand the impact of these experiences on their current situation.”

Much of Jason’s work was done pro-bono, and his greatest rewards are simply the success stories of his students.

“I personally came from a challenging background and this has undoubtedly informed my desire to understand my role and value in society. Of my time here at UTS, I can proudly say the students I was able to bring back from the wilderness have gone on to become active, successful and thriving participants in the mathematics space.”

Banner image: students tutored at the Mathematics Study Support Centre. Photo is courtesy of the Mathematics Study Support Centre.

Case study

The Problem

Students are opting out of higher levels of mathematics, but are pursuing higher degree places in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), with maths at its core.  Students struggle in their first year and retention has become an issue.

The Response

Jason Stanley developed maths mentoring for first year STEM students. This has led to UTS launching short courses as interventions as an initiative of the Mathematics and Science Study Centre.

What helped accomplish this?

Jason Stanley’s past experience as a school educator enabled him to directly address the differing ability levels of students. Much of his work was HEPPP funded through the UTS Equity and Diversity Unit, while some of it was pro-bono work.

What has changed as a result?

Thanks to this initiative, first year STEM students are performing better, more confident, have better wellbeing, and are staying on.


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Impact Area



UTS Faculty or Unit



Jason Stanley, Curriculum Developer, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
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