Bridging the study gap: Provision of support for mathematics students during breaks in study

Susan Pawley, Chris Hughes


Many STEM subjects are strongly hierarchical: learning and progression depends upon threshold concepts and retained knowledge from previous study.  To help progress learning, support can be offered during regular study periods, but what happens during breaks between studies? The requirement to provide continuity during study breaks is recognised as vital in assisting students to bridge the knowledge gap and have the best chance of success.

At the Open University, we have found that over 64% of students studying one of our second level mathematics modules completed the prerequisite module over a year before starting the module. During this gap, their use of techniques required to study effectively may have become “rusty”. Even students who progress immediately find there are study holes where some of the retained knowledge has been lost.

We describe the creation of a ‘Revise and Refresh’ support program that helped our students revise and refresh the knowledge required to study our level two module successfully.


Study suppport; Distance learning; Mathematics; Drop-in centre

Full Text:



van Ameijde, J., Weller, M., & Cross, S. (2016) Designing for Student Retention: The ICEBERG model and key design tips

Calvert, C. (2018) A flexible start to M140. An eSTEeM funded project

Calvert, C., Hilliam, R. & Coleman, J. (2016) Improving retention for all students studying mathematics as part of their chosen qualification by using a voluntary diagnostic quiz MSOR Connections, 14, 3. DOI: DOI: 10.21100/msor.v14i3.312

Dietz-Uhler, A., Fisher, A. & Han A (2007) Designing online courses to promote student retention. J. Educational Technology Systems, Vol 36(1) 105-122 2007-2008

Dweck, C. (2010) Even Geniuses work hard. Educational Leadership. 68 (1), pp 16-20.

Grove, M., Croft, T., Lawson, D. & Petrie, M. (2017) Community perspectives of mathematics and statistics support in higher education: building the infrastructure. Teaching Mathematics and its Applications. DOI: 10.1093/teamat/hrx014

LMS. (1995) Tackling the Mathematics problem. London, UK: The London Mathematical Society.

Matthews, J., Croft, T., Lawson, D. & Waller, D. (2012) Evaluation of mathematics support centres

Perkins, G., Lawson, D. & Croft, T. (2012) Mathematics Learning Support in UK Higher Education: the extent of the provision in 2012

Swan, M.B. (2005) Improving learning in mathematics: challenges and strategies, Department for Education and Skills.

Tinto, Vincent. (1975) Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research. Review of Educational Research, 45 (1), , pp. 89–125. DOI: 10.2307/1170024

Tolley, H. & Mackenzie, H. (2015) Senior Management Perspectives on Mathematics and Statistics Support in Higher Education

Wenger-Trayner, E. & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015) Introduction to communities of practice [online] Available at


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
We use both functional and performance cookies to improve visitor experience. Continue browsing if you are happy to accept cookies. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.

New Directions in the Teaching of Natural Sciences

eISSN: 2753-4138

University Home