Maths Scholarships Webinar 2 - Operational Research: Let’s play with Lego
Sitting at home with my laptop, I had a handful of Lego by my side. Not my usual Saturday morning.
One of the many benefits of being a Maths Scholar is the varied CPD across the year. Today was the second of the Maths Scholarships Webinars, and this time it was Robin Wood from the Operational Research (OR) Society and his intriguingly entitled webinar ‘Let’s play with Lego’.
As with previous webinars, we started with a fun challenge. The Scholarship team are great at including these whilst we wait for the webinars to begin, which brings a sense of fun and competition to the group. I was hopeless at trying to build anything remotely creative out of my Lego bricks (no-one needed to see my tower block!) so I dug around my box of Lego and found a pre-made dinosaur, who kept me company for the rest of the morning.
Robin started the webinar with an introduction to the OR Society, who I must admit I hadn’t heard of until I received the webinar invite. The OR society is a charity which centres around ‘the science of better decision making’, with a goal to see OR used and acknowledged widely in all areas of industry, business, government, the community and the third sector. Sounds interesting, but what does ‘the science of better decision making’ actually mean? Robin provided a vast array of examples of how mathematics analysis is used to make decisions, from optimising the evacuation of a stadium full of people, to planning passenger flow and flight schedules in aviation, and maximising the number of patients treated in a hospital. The examples were extremely relatable and, something I have noticed about the webinars we have been provided with so far is that they have been a great mix of information that not only broadens our own knowledge but can be taken straight away to the classroom to benefit our students.
After an exciting glimpse into the world of OR, it was time to get stuck in…flatpack furniture made from Lego. We were tasked to create the optimum sales combination of tables and chairs, to maximise output whilst minimising wastage. Robin explained how this task can be explored in greater depth, with the introduction of costs and profits. It was a fun hands-on task that was tackled in different ways across the Scholar team, with some opting for trial and error and others reaching straight for trusty algebra.
Robin kindly shared with us examples of different tasks and explained that there were many free OR resources available on TES, suitable for all ages. He also mentioned that the OR Society offer free school visits, and this is something I aim to discuss with my school and hopefully schedule later in the year.
As Mathematics Scholars, we know that Mathematics is all around us in society and has a real impact on the way we live. But it was great to hear some real-life examples from Robin of the exciting ways Mathematics is used to shape key decisions in the world. I can’t wait to share some insight into the application of mathematical analysis in real life scenarios with my students, as building links between Mathematics in the classroom and Mathematics in real life is key to engaging our Mathematicians of the future.
Thank you to the Scholarship Team and the OR Society for organising this webinar.
By Hayley Worrall
Our PM’s effort for the ‘What can you build with the Lego you have for today’s webinar?’ Challenge. Scholars also had to guess what she built (SPOILER ALERT! She built Nessie)