Understanding Participation rates in post-16 Mathematics And Physics (UPMAP)


This project aims to identify through research that uses a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods the range of factors (individual, school and out-of-school, including home), and their interactions, that influence post-16 participation in mathematics and physics in the UK and to assess their relative importance among different student populations.

We aim to gain the views of students and to examine the sources of these views through exploring the contexts, inside and outside of school, in which students experience barriers / opportunities and form their identities in regard to post-16 participation in mathematics and physics.

Our work will increase the likelihood that future interventions to boost post-16 participation in mathematics and physics are successful.

Partner projects as part of the ESRC Targeted Initiative on Science and Mathematics Education:


Items, including those from validated instruments, have been incorporated into questionnaires and distributed to schools across the country. Internal consistencies of constructs have been tested in pilot studies. Since, for some students, it may be difficult to distinguish between 'science' and 'physics', open questions inviting explanations of students' perceptions of these were included.

For strands 2 and 3 interviews, both thematic and discourse analysis will be complemented with comparisons with responses to the Strand 1 questionnaires. Each of the participating schools was asked to administer 50 questionnaires to students expected to obtain grades A*-D in either mathematics or physics/science in years 8 and 10.

For Strand 3, lists of students matching our sampling criteria (students in year 1 who qualify to embark on degree courses in accountancy, mathematics, engineering or physics), provided by HEIs is being used to select candidates for interview on the basis of whether or not it is felt that the student's profile is such that an interview could reveal useful insights into factors that influence choices.


Rodd, M., Mujtaba, T., & Reiss, M. (2010) 'Participation in mathematics post-18: undergraduates stories', British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics, 30, 175-182.

Reiss, M., Hoyles, C., Mujtaba, T., Riazi-Farzad, B., Rodd, M., Simon, S., Stylianidou, F. (2011) 'Understanding Participation rates in post-16 Mathematics And Physics: Conceptualising and operationalising the UPMAP Project', International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education 9 (2), 273-302. (DOI: 10.1007/s10763-011-9286-z)