Enthusiasm for Maths multiplies as children enjoy Royal Institute masterclass
Science subjects need to be made more appealing in Welsh schools, according to a recent report by the National Assembly for Wales . This is thought to be because the subjects suffer from poor perceptions among pupils and teachers. An innovative project sought to address this problem, by providing Welsh children the opportunity to attend Royal Institution Saturday morning Maths masterclasses.
This resoundingly successful project involved holding a series of eight Saturday morning Mathematics masterclasses in the spring of each year to promote interest in and enthusiasm towards all things Mathematical. The masterclass was organised by Dr Mark Jones, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Advanced Technology from Glamorgan University, in collaboration with Beacon for Wales, and the sessions were given by visiting and local university lecturers. The aim of the masterclass was to inspire and engage young minds with the wonders of maths, to help them see, as Dr Jones says, that:
‘Mathematics lies at the heart of the technological and natural worlds in which we live. In short, to get almost anything done you have to do some mathematics.’
The class considered applications of mathematics that are not usually seen in the classroom. Using interactive activities and more traditional approaches, students learnt about the maths of data transfer between PCs and mobile phones and about modelling diseases among other topics. At the end of the project, students were presented with Royal Institute certificates, and were told about the opportunities open to them if they considered a Mathematics career. Over the year, almost 250 students attended along with their parents.
When asked about his motivations for organising the masterclass, Dr Mark Jones said that he wanted to help young people learn not just about maths, but also about university life. He said:
‘We feel it is a positive experience for young people in the local schools and their parents to get accustomed to popping along to the university, just as they would to any other local venue that is open to the public.’
‘Reaching out to the wider community allows people to see the university at first hand. This helps to break down barriers that sometimes exist between higher education and the wider community.’
As Dr Mark Jones sees it, there were a multitude of benefits that arose from the project. He says:
‘The experience was really useful, as it brought together people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Students were able to enthuse and enjoy mathematics and were able to discard the old fashioned stereotypes that have prevailed in our country for far too long concerning the study of mathematics.’
Not only did the project help to inspire and educate young children from the local community, but it also helped raise the profile of Dr Jones’s department and Glamorgan University. The value of universities engaging with their local communities became obvious, he said:
‘Who better to inspire young people – who are after all the next generation of mathematics researchers – than the ones who love their subject? Indeed, who cares for their subject more than ones who spend their lives studying it?’
‘Public engagement is one of the most enjoyable, rewarding and interesting things to be involved with. Once you arrange a speaker and an audience then it is just a marvel to see how the enthusiasm of motivating speaker and the dynamism of young people contribute to making for a successful and memorable day.’
Indeed the importance of a program like this in Wales cannot be overstated, as National assembly for Wales members found in their report that the proportion of Welsh pupils taking Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths at A-level was significantly below the rest of the UK. If Wales is to catch up then programmes like the Royal Institution Masterclasses are invaluable.
For More information about this event you can visit the Royal Institute website here
For more information about the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Learning Committee report see here