Motivation MaLeMINT-E logo

Over the past years, high dropout rates have been observed in many study programs of German universities. Particularly during their first semesters, many students drop out or change their subject. Missing mathematical preparation often represents a central difficulty for students.

Given this background, up to 1,000 university instructors were asked in the context of the comprehensive Delphi study "Mathematical Prerequisites for university STEM programs (MaLeMINT)" which mathematical learning prerequisites they consider necessary for a STEM degree program. The result of this large-scale study is a catalogue of mathematical learning prerequisites that STEM freshmen are expected to fulfill.

However, mathematical knowledge is not only required in university STEM programs. First-year students also need a mathematical background in other fields of academic education, such as economics and social sciences, psychology or architecture. For this reason, the IPN – Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education in Kiel is now conducting a research project to determine the mathematical learning prerequisites in these fields.



The aim of this project is a comprehensive description of the mathematical learning prerequisites necessary, from the perspective of university instructors, for university studies that do not belong to the STEM area. The description of the learning requirements should be based on a broad, if possible nationwide consensus of university instructors.



The survey is based on the learning prerequisites identified in the MaLeMINT project for STEM degree programs. Since the number of learning prerequisites is very wide-ranging and some aspects may not be necessary beyond the STEM area, the MaLeMINT catalogue was first presented to a small group of experts from various study programs in an initial exploratory round of interviews and their assessment was requested.

In the upcoming interviews, these results will be validated, specified and selected in a survey with about 2,000 teachers from higher education institutions all over Germany, in order to be able to present a comprehensive picture of mathematical learning prerequisites from a higher education perspective, also for the study subjects outside the STEM area.


Limitations of the study

The project cannot provide information about the causes of problems in mathematics among first-year students. In particular, the project cannot provide evidence on the present debate on whether competence-based or rule- and fact-based instructions in school mathematics are better to prepare future students for courses in mathematics during studies.


Expected Implications

By using a Delphi survey, it is possible to develop a catalogue of the expected learning prerequisites for study programs based on a broad consensus among university instructors. In the context of university education, these could be, for example, bridging-courses or orientation tests developed for people interested in studying. In the study guidance sector, this necessary prior knowledge of mathematics can give students an idea of what is expected in mathematical terms in the relevant subjects. Furthermore, findings are expected to stimulate the education policy debate on transitions from school to university.


Persons involved

Aiso Heinze, IPN Kiel, Mathematics Education
Irene Neumann, IPN Kiel, Physics Education /Mathematics Education
Dunja Rohenroth, IPN Kiel, Mathematics Education