Too many students are starting science and engineering degrees without studying maths at A-level, according to a report.
Around seven in 10 biology undergraduates, almost two-fifths of those taking chemistry at university and a fifth of those on engineering courses have not studied maths past GCSE level, it found.
Lord Willis of of Knaresborough, chairman of the House of Lords sub-committee which published the report, said he was "absolutely gobsmacked" by the figures.
The report suggests that the level of maths required by universities to study science-based courses is not demanding enough, and is deterring people from taking the subject at A-level.
It calls for all teenagers to continue studying maths past the age of 16, and for all students who want to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) at university to study the subject to A-level standard.
"We were absolutely gobsmacked that 20% of engineering undergraduates do not have A2 (A-level) mathematics, 38% of chemistry and economics undergraduates do not have A2 maths and 70% of biology undergraduates do not have A-level maths," Lord Willis said.
"If we are talking about a world-class STEM base, where mathematics is the cornerstone of virtually every science programme, then it is really quite amazing that we have so few students who have studied maths, literally, beyond GCSE and often, not even with a grade A."
The report, which investigated STEM subjects in higher education, says that universities must toughen up their maths entry requirements for science and maths based degrees.
Professor Sir William Wakeham, international secretary and senior vice-president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, who was the specialist adviser for the committee said they had spoken to pharmaceutical industries who have "enormous demand" for statistical analysis on the effects of their drugs.
Many of their graduates have studied biological science and "not studied maths from the age of 16 with a minimal level of statistics", he said.
"Employers are rather keen that all of their students should have these kinds of skills," he said.
Sir William added that because of the modularisation of exams, it is possible "to avoid whole subjects in maths, like calculus and still find yourself in an engineering discipline where maths is essential."
There are some engineering students that have "virtually no understanding" of mechanics, Lord Willis said.
A number of university vice-chancellors told the sub-committee that their institution was being forced to offer remedial maths classes not only for those that had not studied the subject at A-level, but for those who had taken it and done well, the report said.
Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor of Surrey University, told the group: "I think that in pretty much every university the issues over maths skills apply.
"Indeed, this has been an issue now for many years within universities, partly due to the increase in the breadth of maths that is studied at schools but with a lack of depth.
"In some cases, for example, there is a complete absence of calculus, which is an issue in many subjects."
The sub-committee recommends that the Government should make maths compulsory for all students after GCSE.
"We share the view that all students should study some form of maths post-16, the particular area of maths depending on the needs of the student.
"For example, prospective engineering students would require mechanics as part of their post-16 maths, whereas prospective biology students would benefit from studying statistics."
It adds: "We recommend also that maths to A2 level should be a requirement for students intending to study STEM subjects in higher education."
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We want the majority of young people to continue studying maths up to 18 to meet the growing demand for employees with maths skills.
"We are reviewing how maths is taught in schools and overhauling GCSEs and A-levels to make sure they are robust and in line with the best education systems in the world."