The Maths Alumni Project – Message from Adam Elgar

Educational Consultant South West, & Paul Williams: Local Education Authority Mathematics Advisor, Bristol. Mathematics and the world outside school – developments in the West of England

In Bristol, work-related and contextualised Mathematics is gaining importance. An initial project called “Working Mathematics into Bristol” encouraged the development of learning materials drawn from the world outside the classroom. Building on this, several schools are taking part in an extension of the “Showing You’re Working” project which originated at Kingswood School in Bath and brings former students into schools to show how they use Mathematics in their work. In Bristol this is still at an early stage, and it is proving a challenge to engage former students from Local Authority schools, although Facebook has been a useful tool in this process. Some case studies have been produced for display in the schools, illustrating the role of Mathematics in health care, engineering, construction, and the design of computer games. A former independent school, now an Academy, has achieved most success through its former pupil networks.

The project is widening its scope in order to include young people who have recently moved from school into Further Education, for example apprentices who frequently use Mathematics in their learning and work. The aim is to develop case studies of these young people, and possibly to engage them in demonstrating to younger learners how and why they use Maths.

It is also clear that Work Experience placements are a rich potential source of opportunities for mathematical learning. Links are being made with a project based at the University of Nottingham which is developing templates so that students on placement can undertake mathematical challenges and report back on them to their classes during the debrief after Work Experience.

It is too early to identify significant changes in teachers’ practice, but there is clear, if gradual momentum towards a more contextualised approach to mathematical teaching and learning. In North Somerset, following a successful work-related learning project funded by NCETM, three schools have set up a network for collaboration in trialling “starter” activities drawn from the world of work. In South Gloucestershire a major logistics company has been hosting developmental placements for teachers so that new learning materials can be designed which draw on the wide range of mathematical scenarios at work on the company’s premises.

Showing You’re working has been an integral part of our “Working Mathematics into Bristol” initiative, and we hope it will be part of our thinking for work related learning here in Bristol for years to come.