Maths Week England 2019
The first Maths Week England took place in November 2019. Its aims included encouraging Higher-Education centres to invite schoolchildren to visit for maths events and allowing children from all social and economic backgrounds to access and enjoy interesting mathematical experiences.
Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) is a small institution in Lincoln founded in 1862, with a long history of education related degrees but with an increasing range of programmes, including Mathematics. Maths Week England provided an opportunity for us, as tutors from Mathematics and Primary Education, to collaborate. Over the years we’ve each gathered various hands-on maths activities, games and puzzles and among these we found around 60 that could appeal to primary-aged children and help us meet the aims of Maths Week England. We also recruited around 20 student volunteers from programmes in Mathematics, Education Studies, and Primary Education with QTS.
On Wednesday 13th November, 180 children in years 4-6 from a local primary school in Lincoln arrived at BGU to work on hands-on maths games and puzzles. These included many free resources from the NRICH KS2 roadshow, classic puzzles such as the Towers of Hanoi, cypher puzzles, building shapes using polydron, domino problems, and familiar games such as Connect 4. Children in groups of 2-4 were accompanied by a student who supported them with their mathematical thinking and working together to solve the problems. The sessions were planned to last for an hour but each time they ran over because everyone was so engrossed in the mathematics. It wasn’t just the children – because our students were supporting the children the school staff were able to join in, determined to solve the puzzles. Staff were also interested in the sources of the activities and talked about using some in school.
Each group was given mathematical postcards, badges and puzzles to take away – many thanks to NRICH and the IMA for contributing these.
Events like this take some planning and a lot of energy on the day, but the trade-offs in terms of excitement for the visiting children and the sense of community it helped to foster among undergraduates from different programmes were tremendous.
Thank you for offering the experience; it was a lovely day. I really enjoyed it and learnt loads with regards to how maths is presented in many different ways through a variety of different activities. I can’t wait to try some of them out on placement! Chloe Waters, Year 2 Primary Education with QTS
The final aim of Maths Week England was to “Make maths accessible and enjoyable for people who thought it was an elitist subject for ‘clever’ people: to ‘love and enjoy’ is a worthy goal!” We think we accomplished this. Traditional school mathematics was already accessible for the Mathematics students but not necessarily for all of the Education Studies and Primary Education students, some of whom lack confidence in the subject. This day gave them all the opportunity to see mathematics presented in a positive way that is challenging but still accessible and how well the children responded to this. The deputy head said the day was, “amazing, all the children and staff enjoyed themselves!”
Maths Week England 2020 is already being planned and BGU will certainly be taking part.
By Dr Ashley Compton is a Senior Lecturer in Primary Education at Bishop Grosseteste University.
Dr Elizabeth Kimber is Programme Leader for Mathematics at Bishop Grosseteste University.