Flows of Mathematics Students

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The numbers of mathematical science graduates at all levels are generally
increasing, except for a few countries, according to the ICMI Pipeline project
co-ordinated by ICMI president Bill Barton. This contradicts an international perception
that the number of mathematics graduatesis falling.

But the percentage of mathematical science graduates is declining slightly. This may be
because more courses with mathematical content are attracting school leavers who
would otherwise enrol in undergraduate mathematics.

Many senior secondary mathematics teachers in New Zealand, Australia, and the
UK are also approaching retirement, and shortages of mathematics teachers are likely
as fewer students enter teacher training. The project was initiated at the request
of ICMI’s parent body, the International Mathematical Union, and has collected data
from ten countries: New Zealand, Australia, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Portugal,
Scotland, Taiwan, the UK and the USA. It found that the situation differed markedly
in different countries, so has focused on national case studies of four transition
points rather than a comprehensive comparison.

The tr
ansitions were from school to undergraduate courses; undergraduate
to postgraduate courses, university into teaching, and university into other
employment.

Results indicate that in New Zealand the number of school leavers qualifying in the
mathematical sciences is increasing (see graph), as are the numbers of Bachelor,
Masters and PhD graduates. However, mathematics graduates are a declining
percentage of total graduates, and the median age for secondary mathematics
teachers has grown to 45 - 49.

The project aims to provide data for educational decision making in different
countries. Barton has presented results at conferences in Poland, Spain and New
Zealand and the report is being finalised. The project will continue to update data
from project countries and add other countries to the database.

See Pipeline Project