“ Mathematics and Statistics Support post-COVID: Renewal, Redesign and Expansion


The IMLSN online workshop in January 2023 showcased the wide variety of Mathematics and Statistics Learning Supports (MLS) that are on offer for students across the island of Ireland. In response to students, for the most part, fully returning to campus, these supports included both in-person and online services which presented both benefits and challenges to the MLS practitioners involved. Another notable and positive feature of this workshop was the large number of presentations from across relatively new institutions, such as the Technological Universities. 

Building on the success of this workshop, on Friday June 9th, the IMLSN will run a hybrid workshop, which will focus on the renewal, redesign and expansion of MLS services across the island of Ireland.We wish to reflect on the successes and challenges of MLS provision during the past academic year, whilst also considering the key lessons and planning issues that will impact preparations for 2023-24. We would also like to hear what the IMLSN community can do to support practitioners, particularly those new to MLS or those from new institutions.
Provisional timetable:
10:30-10:35: Welcome
10:35-12:35: Presentations by Aoife O'Brien (Atlantic Technological University), Peter Mulligan (Maynooth University), Richard Walsh and Aoife Guerin (University of Limerick), and Anthony Brown  (University College Dublin) and Aishling McGlinchy (Technological University Dublin).
12:35-1:30: Lunch Break
1:30-2:15: Online and in-person Break Out Rooms (Topics to be circulated after registration closes).
2:15-3.00: Annual General Meeting of the IMLSN (Documents to be circulated after registration closes).

Titles and abstracts for talks are listed below.

Title: Irish First Year Undergraduate Engineering Students’ Knowledge of Initial Algebra
Dr. Aoife O'Brien (Atlantic Technological University)
Abstract: The Mathematics Problem at third level in Ireland is well documented and Irish third level institutions are now encountering students entering science and technology-based programs with inferior mathematical skills when compared with students a decade ago. This is consistent with international trends. Algebra is considered a prerequisite for further study in the subject of mathematics and in disciplines such as engineering, science, and technology where mathematics is required and is seen by many as the language of mathematics. This study investigates the algebra knowledge of incoming first-year engineering students to a third level institute in Ireland. Using a quantitative research design, data was collected from a sample of 159 students using an assessment of initial algebra known as a screener, which was originally developed for use with second year post-primary students and modified for use in this study. The results were analysed using descriptive statistics to create a profile of knowledge for these students. This research confirms that many students struggled with the key prerequisite content areas of fractions, order of operations and exponents. Consequently, the algebra content items on variables, expressions and equations are not well answered by which aligns with findings in previous international studies. These findings identify key areas with which students of service mathematics need support to succeed with the subject of mathematics overall. This information can help mathematics educators to focus on key problem areas relating to algebra, and targeted interventions to alleviate these issues can be planned accordingly.

Title: A Reflection on a Year of Mathematics and Statistics Support, Post COVID Restrictions

Peter Mulligan (Maynooth University)

Abstract: At the IMLSN workshop 14 in January, we reported on our experiences of our first semester at Maynooth University Mathematics Support Centre since the removal of COVID restrictions. Now that the academic year is over, we take this opportunity to share with the mathematics learning support community our observations and lessons learnt. Among other items, we will report on possible reasons for lower than pre-COVID attendance rates from some year groups and we remark on the impact of online assessment on student engagement with our services. Despite lower than pre-COVID attendance figures, student feedback on our annual survey indicates a high level of student satisfaction with our service. We will also report on our experience of delivering the IMLSN Tutor Competency Badges to tutors in Maynooth University.


Title: Mathematics Support Post-Covid at the University of Limerick: A Description of 2022/23

Dr Richard Walsh and Dr Aoife Guerin (University of Limerick)

This talk will describe the mathematics support that was available for UL students during the academic year 2022/23. Details of the hybrid approach to mathematics support will be provided, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of the methods of support employed.

Title: Incorporating online resources in maths learning support

Dr Anthony Brown (UCD) and Dr Aishling McGlinchy (TU Dublin)


One of the positive outcomes for maths learning support from the challenging pandemic years was increased usage and development of excellent online maths resources. A demand for this had been identified and addressed in previous years; however the urgency due to restrictions helped to expedite this development significantly.

In the past academic year, going back to ‘normal’, we were challenged with the task to re-establish the successful face-to-face maths support from pre-pandemic times and at the same time make best possible use of the resources and skills developed during the pandemic. Another major challenge last year was students’ relatively poor engagement, as discussed at the IMLSN Workshop 13, which made it particularly difficult for tutors and lecturers to arouse interest in engaging with supplementary maths resources and exercises. Colleagues reported that students were reluctant to use online support or resources. One of the reasons may be that it can be very time-consuming to find the right resources and exercises.

To support the Irish maths learning support community, the IMLSN Shared Mathematics Resources Project aims to provide easily searchable, reliable and targeted selections of notes, videos and interactive exercises in key topics in mathematics and make them available on the IMLSN-website. Resources are chosen with the Irish context in mind, quick and easy to find, and for most topics, interactive exercises with feedback are provided. It is an ongoing project, from and for the IMSLN community, and we encourage colleagues to participate in the project, and to use it in maths support centres and other teaching.