Preparing to be an NQT - NRICH session

It was the final Scholars event: a workshop themed Preparing to be an NQT and the first session was on NRICH, led by Ems Lord, Director of NRICH.

I’ll start by sharing the last question of the session, asked by a fellow scholar:

“Why is it called NRICH?”

Following some banter from Ems about a misspelling of enrich, she revealed that NRICH is an acronym for Norwich, (The) Royal Institution, Cambridge (University) and Homerton (College). NRICH was borne out of the Royal Institution Christmas lectures years ago and developed from an online maths club into a collaborative outreach initiative attracting millions of worldwide users. Whilst most of us had encountered the NRICH website, Ems showed us the host project: The Millennium Mathematics Project (University of Cambridge) website contains links to NRICH and many other resources, such as:

- PLUS, (a free online maths magazine);

- WILD MATHS, (resources which foster creativity);

- Maths and Sport, (activities to celebrate London 2012 and football);

- Visits to schools and other local activities.

Ems showed us examples of resources from some of these project links, then it was our turn: we were given ten Olympic Records graphs, with years on the horizontal axis, various scales on the vertical axis, some plotted points, but no other information:

Olympics graph 

We started suggesting events that the graphs might represent then noticed some interesting features. The enfolding discussions became lively and Ems was explaining how this activity might engage students: spotting patterns and trends, making links to social sciences and history. For example, why does Graph 3 only start in 1976? Don’t panic, there are teacher resources with suggested approaches and also students’ solutions. On this aspect, another feature shared was how to submit student solutions to ‘live’ problems, which remain open for half term cycles, with best solutions published.

Ems also explained NRICH’s stance in the mastery debate:

- developing young mathematicians’ mastery should not only address conceptual understanding and procedural fluency, (see National Curriculum mathematics programmes of study), but also adaptive reasoning (convince yourself, a friend, a sceptic), strategic competence (problem solving and posing) and productive disposition (students keep trying). 

These five aspects develop collaborative and resilient flexible thinkers, who are not limited to one approach. We then worked on a rich variety of activities which encouraged us to think flexibly in seeking solutions. It is this flexibility that needs to become a key Habit of Mind that students develop. NRICH’s problem-solving resources, including the STEP support project for KS5, are ‘low-threshold, high-ceiling’ which builds confidence and develops reasoning, thinking and initiative.

I now understand why Ems, at the start of the session, claimed that NRICH is the best maths outreach site in the world! There truly is something for everyone.

Thank you for a great session. 

Camilla Kerr