One of the main attractions of becoming a Maths Scholar was learning how to engage with the maths community for teaching resources. We have already learnt on our PGCE that creating good problems is not straightforward, ensuring they address specific areas of the curriculum whilst also creating open-ended and engaging activities.
I was delighted therefore to be given the opportunity to attend a seminar on NRICH, a vast array of curriculum linked problem-solving resources created through collaboration between the faculties of Maths and Education at Cambridge University. There are resources aimed at all Key Stages, and neatly organised by mathematical divisions e.g. Numbers, Algebra, Geometry & Data.
Dr Ems Lord, director of NRICH, ran through a number of the activities, and showed us how immediately engaging they were. I particularly enjoyed interpreting the graphs of Olympic records, as she showed how we can incorporate cross-curricular links to history and sociology.
The platform encourages feedback and celebrates different approaches to problem-solving, and publishes students’ solution alongside the problems. Many of the problems include online apps to allow students to explore the problems either alone at home, or in groups in the classroom. I was given one of the problems when I first met my PGCE cohort at UCL, which proved a great ice-breaker whilst also introducing us to the NRICH platform.
Most problems include stretch activities for students that complete the original activity, so work well for mixed ability classes. For example, you may find a numeric solution to a particular problem, but what if the number of counters/frogs/colours were different? What if there are “n” such items, i.e. can you deduce a relationship? Can you create your own related problem?!
NRICH are supporters of Maths Week England (@maths_week), an event that started in 2019. Their aim is to promote maths both at school and at home by making it a positive, accessible and enjoyable experience through shared activities. I will have started my first School Experience placement by this point, and I hope to inspire my fellow teachers and their students to sign-up to participate if not already done so.
Finally, I hope one day to contribute to the NRICH platform itself. I’m just starting out in my teaching career, and I can see how I would struggle without the support of those that have been doing this for years. As I mature in my understanding of what makes a good problem, I would be delighted to have one accepted as suitable for the NRICH platform.
By Richard Hayes