Maths Scholarships Resources Webinars 1 - Operational Research: Let’s Play With Lego

Abi VarathanathanOne of my favourite perks on being a Maths Scholar alumnus is always being given the opportunity to attend a variety of CPD events held by the Maths scholarships Team. With social isolation leading to many events being cancelled or delayed, I would like to start by saying a huge thank you to the scholarships team for providing the events in the form of webinars. 

The first of the 3 webinars started off with Evelyn Hardy. She is the Education officer at Operational Research (OR). OR is very similar to data science, it involves the application of Maths methods and advanced analysis to improve decision making. You’re probably wondering, what does this actually mean?

For example, some of the questions that the OR team try to answer are: 

How can we evacuate 60 000 people from the Emirates stadium in 8 minutes?
How can Tesco make sure that they have enough milk for customers to buy? 
What is the best route for delivery drivers to take? 
How do airlines decide where to fly and how much to charge people? 

OR is a rapidly growing and developing field. The OR society aims to promote these great careers to young individuals and allow them to see it as a worthwhile investment for their future. They run and attend various workshops, careers events, develop resources and deliver teacher training. 

Some of the resources that OR society has produced are:

A theatre booking activity which involves the use of decision Maths.
Travelling salesman problems.
Critical path analysis problems, e.g. what is the quickest way to make bolognese so that you can meet your friends later?

And many more! 

The wealth of resources available on the OR website is fantastic and the activities are certain to engage students.  

One of the activities that we looked at during the webinar was ‘Lego furniture factory’. The goal was to identify how many tables and chairs could be produced using Lego blocks in order to maximise profit. However, the limitation was that we could only use 6 rectangular blocks and 8 square Lego blocks. As well as being an interactive, hands-on activity, this was a great way of introducing linear programming. Quite often it’s difficult to include practical work with lessons with such time constraints to cover the syllabus. But, this activity was practical as well as ensuring that students would be learning something every step of the way. 


I am looking forward to promoting more OR careers to my students and trying the some of the activities with my students.  

By Abi Varathanathan (Alumna)