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Number crunch

With regard to the debate on mathematics (NCE 14 November), when I started teaching maths to first year engineering undergraduates some 30 years ago I could assume that they would have a grasp of the basics of algebra and calculus.

Today that is not the case: I have to start my courses at a much lower level. Your midcareer correspondents are from an age when mathematical education was based on firmer foundations. If students are not required to have taken A level mathematics then beware: a grade B at GCSE mathematics can be obtained with virtually no exposure to algebra and a grade C can be obtained with less than 25% of available marks.

It should also be borne in mind that many engineering undergraduates will not have taken mechanics modules at A or AS level and need that topic also building from scratch.

Dr Leslie Mustoe, director of science and engineering foundation studies, Loughborough University, Leics LE11 3TU

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