Mathematical learning prerequisites for non-STEM study programs

Motivation MaLeMINT-E logo

Many students leaving high school expect to not need mathematics further on. However, a wide range of study programs include mathematics. One may assume that more than 80% of university students do need mathematics beyond basic knowledge and skills for their studies.

Certainly, mathematical knowledge and skills are relevant for studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). But even subjects such as economics, sociology, psychology, sports science or architecture require (partly high level) mathematical knowledge and skills. Some students might be challenged by such requirements and, in the worst case, may therefore drop out of their study program.



The project MaLeMINT-E aims to systematically explore the mathematical learning requirements expected from first-year students for non-STEM studies. Based on a survey with about 550 German university instructors, MaLeMINT-E provides a catalog on minimum standards for freshmen’s mathematical competencies from the universities’ perspective.



MaLeMINT-E is designed as a so-called Delphi-study. University instructors experienced in mathematics education of freshmen in the respective study programs were asked for their expectations from first-year students. The Delphi-study included three rounds of data collection, data analysis and follow-up data collection to successively reach consensus among the participants.



The Delphi-study design provides an overview of expected mathematical learning requirements in non-STEM fields of study that is based on a broad consensus of university teachers.

The detailed report is available for download.


Limitations of the study

Due to the design of the study, MaLeMINT-E cannot provide information on the causes of problems in mathematics among first-year students. It also remains unclear how predictive the expectations identified by university teachers might be for successful academic outcomes. 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 the mathematical requirements of a study program. The catalog presented here was not intended to be an educational policy document providing educational goals (such as educational standards or curricula).


Expected Implications

Based on the catalog developed, the mathematical requirements for non-STEM study programs in Germany become transparent for schools and future students. Particularly, the catalog demonstrates the role of mathematics for subjects school graduates may not expect mathematics to be relevant for.

The catalog can be used as a basis for conceptualizing supporting measures such as pre- and bridge courses or for developing competence-related self-tests for future students. Regarding teacher training, the catalog can provide orientation, for example, to increase awareness of mathematics' role in a very broad spectrum of subjects by providing appropriate in-service training, and to encourage the use of practical examples beyond the standard applications. In addition, the study’s results may initiate educational policy discussions on the transition from school to university, since both, the MaLeMINT-E and the MaLeMINT, catalogs describe the university instructors’ expectations for a substantial range of subjects.


Persons involved

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

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