Promoting a Positive Attitude for Maths Week

Maths Week 2020 is here and as part of our celebrations, we caught up with Midlands Science board member and highly experienced post-primary teacher in Mathematics, Patricia Nunan, to hear her views on promoting maths as a subject and the importance of Maths Week…..

Maths Week is all about celebrating maths as a subject and promoting positive attitudes towards maths and of course, furthering the understanding of our world through maths. Maths Week will be very different this year due to Covid19 and schools will be doing their best to ensure the pupils get to have fun with maths whilst in school but what are some of the activities you think parents could be doing to increase their child’s understanding of maths in the household?

I think encouraging children to be involved in household activities like baking or measuring allows children to see the real world applications of Maths. For example, driving to school last week my 9 year old asked about Maths and driving and we discussed distance and speed but also when parking in terms of spatial awareness. Encouraging them at all times to see that Maths is a really useful practical subject as opposed to something which is abstract and difficult. Also, I think parents should resist from sharing their negative experiences or feelings about Maths and try to promote positive attitudes. Many parents will share their anxieties and difficulties with it and that creates anxiety with the child from the beginning. Furthermore, stereotypical play activities can alienate girls from engaging with blocks or building or puzzles which promote logic and spatial awareness. 

In recent times, we hear people talking more about maths anxiety. What exactly is this and what are schools and teachers doing to try to help pupils to overcome it?

Mind over matter. Often children have a negative perception of Maths by the time they get to school. Schools and teachers are encouraging children to see Maths as a more “fun” subject, something which can be really useful and enjoyable.  Initiatives like Maths Week certainly do a lot in this regard and in the promotion of Maths. Post Primary schools, often facilitated by the Guidance teacher, organise visitors and speakers who have graduated from Maths related courses or who use Maths in their jobs on a regular basis. On a more practical level, teachers spend time encouraging students to problem solve and develop critical thinking skills which they can apply across all subjects and as a life skill in general. 

What do you think it is that causes this initial fear of maths?

It seems to be more socially acceptable to be “bad at Maths”, cool even in some ways. People do not claim to be “bad at English” quite so quickly. I do believe a lot has been done in recent years to promote Maths both in society and in schools. However, there is always room for further improvement. Perhaps making the link between sports and Maths would bring further encouragement as it has been proven that Spatial awareness amongst girls is typically weaker than amongst boys, an important skill on any sports pitch. 

Why are events like national Maths Week so important? Do you think they help to change peoples’ perceptions of maths and make it more enjoyable?

Maths Week is absolutely crucial in my opinion as it places Maths awareness and skills at the top of the agenda, allowing students and parents to make the connections between real life and Maths. The Maths Eyes campaign which ran a number of years ago was a really fantastic initiative in my opinion as it pushed us all to look at the world around us and see the Maths in our everyday lives. 

@mathsweek

#MathsAtHome

Patricia is a qualified post primary teacher in Mathematics and French. She graduated with a Higher Diploma in Education from UCD and a Higher Diploma in Educational Management and Administration from NUI Maynooth. She then completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Leadership in NUI Maynooth and a Masters in Educational Management from WIT. Patricia has worked, as an advisor, with the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) for the last two years in the areas of Leaving Certificate Applied, Numeracy, MFL and DEIS planning. She also led the design of the teacher CPD for the revised module descriptor in Mathematical Applications.  She is a board member of Midland Science which promotes STEM subjects across the midland counties and is a passionate advocate for active participation of girls in STEM subjects, in particular.

Patricia worked as a School Placement Tutor with Trinity College Dublin for a number of years and also facilitated workshops for the National Induction Programme (NIPT).

Celebrate Mathamatical Moments with Midlands Science

The Countdown to Virtual Maths Week 2020 is on!

 Maths Week has been taking place in Ireland every year since 2006 and has grown to attract participation from as many as 300,000 people annually across Ireland. We often don’t realise that maths is part of all facets of everyday life. Maths Week 2020 promises to be quite different due to the fact that large scale public events will now not be possible but Midlands Science is delighted to this year team up with Dublin City University lecturer in Mathematics Education, Dr. Aisling Twohill, to deliver our Maths Week activities in a new and virtual format so that we can stay safe while exploring the fun aspects of maths and all that it has to offer.

Aisling Twohill, Midlands Science Board member and lecturer in Mathematics Education, in the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies at DCU said,

‘I am delighted to collaborate with Midlands Science for Maths Week 2020. We will be utilising stories to make maths more accessible and more enjoyable through a series of videos which will be available on Midlands Science social media platforms throughout Maths Week. Picture-books are a great way to introduce maths concepts in a child-centred way, and two of the videos will develop children’s ideas around spatial relations and fractions through the stories of ‘Winnie the Witch’ and ‘Mama Panya’s Pancakes’. We hope that encountering maths in such attractive, and accessible contexts will develop younger children’s appreciation for maths and encourage them to see maths as part of their everyday lives. For older children and adults, we will focus two videos on the stories of the History of Number and Fibonacci and with these, we will explore concepts such as sequences, place value and the historical connections of  mathematics. Sometimes, the way maths is taught can feel quite repetitive, so we are also taking this opportunity to encourage everybody to have fun with maths through puzzles and games. We are even providing a few suggestions to get you started. Playing the games we’re suggesting will give you a chance to experience maths in a more dynamic and relevant way than you might have experienced through school textbooks!’

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘Maths is a key driver of innovation and growth and it impacts every aspect of life. Maths Week is a co-operative movement with local partners all over Ireland together with schools and teachers changing attitudes towards maths. It is coordinated by Calmast at Waterford IT and is an ideal opportunity for people of all ages to increase their appreciation and understanding of mathematics and it is part of our overall aim to try to make it more accessible to everyone. We are delighted to be working with Dr. Aisling Twohill who has made an enormous contribution to our work in promoting science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) over the past year. We look forward to publicly sharing a number of innovative maths videos which Aisling has recently produced, to help us raise awareness of maths and to demonstrate how wide and varied maths can be as a possible career path.’

Maths Puzzles:

 

These puzzles are all available as apps or to play through a web browser.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘Maths Week, which takes place from the 10th to 18th October, may not be the same this year due to unavoidable circumstances and our original plans for this year’s celebrations have obviously been somewhat impacted, but don’t forget to tune into our brand new maths videos which we really hope will spark an interest in maths and also please check out www.mathsweek.ie/2020 where you will find plenty of engaging maths activities to help improve attitudes towards maths as a subject, build confidence and demonstrate to children the value of maths as a lifelong skill that is linked so many aspects of the wider world around us.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maths Week 2019 in the Midlands

We had a great session on #careers involving #maths in #longford yesterday and today we are in #offaly and #westmeath. Cpl provided an independent and comprehensive overview of careers involving maths with a particular focus on software development all this week across the midlands and it’s great to be working with Ireland’s leading recruitment company and getting such an engaged response from students of all ages.

Maths Week is coming soon!

Since 2006, Maths Week has been taking place every year and has grown to attract participation from as many as 300,000 people annually across Ireland. We often don’t realise that maths is everywhere and part of all facets of everyday life. Local development company, Midlands Science is delighted to be delivering a number of events during Maths Week across the Midlands this October 12th – 20th as part of its ongoing work to help promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to people of all ages.

Midlands Science has an abundance of experience in managing initiatives which focus on creating a more positive outlook towards maths and in arranging career talks and other events which explore with students the importance of maths as a subject choice. As part of this year’s celebrations Midlands Science is running a competition to help encourage more people to see the fun side of maths and to be in with a chance of winning a great prize.

Aisling Twohill, Midlands Science Board member and lecturer in Mathematics Education, in the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies at DCU said,

‘Mathematics is a universal language and the annual, week-long Maths Week, brings together some of the most fascinating and insightful mathematicians of our time to inspire and encourage everybody to see maths in new and surprising ways. Midlands Science is really pleased to get involved with Maths Week 2019 and this year we will be providing a range of hands-on activities and expert maths speakers in some schools which will showcase just how prevalent maths is and how important it is in understanding our world. Sometimes, especially to younger children maths might seem quite repetitive at school but through encouraging more engagement in puzzles and games, it is possible to make the subject more thought-provoking, relevant and fun. We invite people of all ages to take a look at the maths brain teasers which we have featured in this article. Our goal is to help make maths more accessible and more exciting to those outside of the field itself. We wish everyone the very best of luck!’

Daire Meehan at Cpl Technology commented,

‘The team at Cpl is delighted to collaborate with Midlands Science for Maths Week 2019 in showcasing just how wide and varied maths can be as a possible career path and inspiring our young people across the Midlands into the world of work. Cpl is proud to educate the future generation on the importance of STEM subjects and show how studying these subjects can result in many different rewarding careers. By sharing our stories and insights, we can hopefully play an essential role in helping to bring a new perspective to STEM lessons and prepare pupils in the Midlands for many worthwhile future careers.’

Check out our first two maths puzzles below and send your answer to jgorman@midlandsscience.ie

  • If 6 cats kill 6 rats in 6 minutes, how many will be needed to kill 100 rats in 50 minutes?
  • If you have a basin that holds exactly 5l, a basin that holds exactly 3l and an unlimited supply of water, how can you produce exactly 4l of water?

 

Counting the days to Maths Week….

Midlands Science is delighted to be delivering a number of events during Maths Week across the Midlands this October 12th-20th. The focus is on creating a more positive outlook towards maths and as part of this year’s celebrations we are running a competition where we will ask people to put on their thinking caps and solve some maths puzzles!

Check out our first two puzzles below and send your answer to jgorman@midlandsscience.ie to be in with a chance of winning a great prize!

  • One very famous historical problem: If 6 cats kill 6 rats in 6 minutes, how many will be needed to kill 100 rats in 50 minutes? The solution seems obvious but there are lots of ways to think about it!
  • If you have a basin that holds exactly 5l, a basin that holds exactly 3l and an unlimited supply of water, how can you produce exactly 4l of water?

Making Sense of Maths!

We are delighted to be welcoming Dr. Ciarán Mac an Bhaird from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Maynooth University back to this years Midlands Science Festival to deliver more local secondary schools maths talks!

Student Quotes from Dr. Mac an Bhaird’s talk last year:

“It was really interesting to see how different area of maths are linked.”
“I liked when he showed us that Pythagoras Theorem always works no matter what the numbers are.”
“I found his proofs interesting.”
“I liked the links between all the methods in the talk and the common number at the end”

Happy Maths Week!

scoil-mhuire-ipads-projectWe hope you all enjoyed Maths Week 2016! It is never too early to start teaching maths to young children. There are lots of fun and creative ways to start from as early an age as possible..
This week schools all around Ireland are getting involved in group problem solving activities, maths trails and lots of other things to promote a better awareness, appreciation and understanding of maths. You can do your own activities at home and sometimes keeping it simple is best. Use lego, playing cards, dice or even something like a pizza to teach division. The possibilities are endless. Happy Maths Week!

Making a Difference for Maths students…

Ciaran maths NUIMWe recently had a really good chat with Dr. Ciarán Mac an Bhaird, Maths Support Centre Manager from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in NUI, Maynooth. Here’s what he had to say…

What inspired you to choose a career in Maths?

Growing up with my parents, brothers and sisters on our small farm in Monaghan, Maths was never treated differently to other subjects at school. It was a normal subject, we saw our parents using it on a daily basis for calculations and no one said it was hard or different. If you got something wrong in maths, as with any other subject, you tried to find out why and improve the next time. I also had very good teachers at school, and lecturers in University. Some of these lecturers were inspirational, especially my supervisor. When I discovered in tutorials that I seemed to be good at explaining mathematics to students, and that I enjoyed the experience, I decided that this was what I wanted to do.

Can you tell us about your role and about the Maths Support Centre at Maynooth University? Does it help to improve students’ experience of mathematics at college?

I am a lecturer and I manage the Maths Support Centre in Maynooth. My lecturing role is standard, I try to teach to the level of the students that are in my class, taking into consideration their backgrounds and try to ensure that they are exposed to and understand material which will help them with the next step in their education or career. I also try to engage them with the material, and show them why it is relevant.

I was asked by the Department to set up and manage the Maths Support Centre (MSC) in 2007, under the guidance of Dr. Ann O’Shea. It was established to try and give students the opportunity to get to a level where they could manage and even excel with mathematics at University. We have gone through a range of initiatives over the years, the most successful model being the free drop-in facility which we provide to both University and second level students. It is very popular and we reached 100000 student visits in April 2015. We have published research which indicates that regular and appropriate student engagement with supports can improve their retention and progression, students also report a better attitude towards the subject and more confidence in their mathematical ability. The MSC staff promote a friendly and non-judgmental experience atmosphere, and the majority of students who use it appropriately are very positive about their experience.

What is the most rewarding element of your job?

When I see the difference that we can make to students. Sometimes it is clear, especially in a one-to-one situation in the MSC, you are explaining something and you see the light-bulb moment when the student understands. Sometimes you don’t see this moment, but then you get an acknowledgement from a student, an email or comment, where they tell you about how something you did made a difference. It may not have even been a mathematical explanation, it might have been advice on a subject choice, or advice on how to study, or a strategy on how to tackle certain problems. I enjoy working in the MSC, it is a lot of fun.

I work closely with Dr. O’Shea on the research we conduct into our initiatives. It is very important that everything we do is fully analysed and its effectiveness determined. It is very satisfying when you can measure the positive impact on something that you do to help students.

What do you think we can do to inspire more young people to pursue a career in Maths and STEM in general?

There are several approaches that I would advocate.

First, getting suitable graduates in Maths and STEM to go out and talk to students and parents. My colleagues and I give lots of talks to schools, and we see the impact that this can have on students attitudes towards the subject. I think companies who use Maths and STEM skills also have a big role to play in this regard. It can be difficult to see or appreciate the key role that Maths and STEM plays in our everyday lives, so when companies give talks to students and parents, or invite them in to see their facilities, I think this can make a big difference.

Getting more good news stories into the wider media is also essential. Unfortunately, the majority of headline stories represented in the media seem to be ‘bad-news’ about Maths and STEM. This has an incredibly negative impact on people’s attitudes, to the point where it has become widely acceptable to say that you are ‘bad at maths or STEM’. Many view these subjects as being only for a select few. This is completely untrue and needs to be challenged.

Could schools be doing more to make maths more fun?

I can not comment in general as I have not taught very much at second level. In my experience, and certainly in the majority of the schools in which I have given talks, the teachers and principals are very positive about the subject and this is important. I know from personal experience the difference a positive and committed teacher can make to students and parents. Certainly, I would encourage schools to get actively involved with Maths Week and Science Week activities.

Why do you think events like Maths Week and Science Week are so important?

 
I think they are a great opportunity to see Mathematics or Science related events that ordinarily you would not experience. When I am not giving talks, I go to as many other events as I can and I always find out new and exciting things about Mathematics and STEM. For example, some of the events during Science Week 2015 at Maynooth are listed at https://www.maynoothuniversity.ie/faculty-science-engineering/science-week and they gave great insight into both how Science and Maths helps us in our everyday lives and also helps us to explore the known universe.

 

GLOBAL MATHS EXPERT VISITS MIDLANDS SCHOOLS

jump_logoTo coincide with a number of recent Midlands science events, a selection of local schools were fortunate to have received a visit from Dr. John Mighton, founder of the Canadian based maths programme, JUMP Math. The JUMP Math model provides teaching tools that can be used by any teacher in any classroom around the world. Based on research, case studies and the results it achieves, the model is continuously evolving and thanks to local development company Atlantic Corridor in association with the programme’s main sponsor, leading multinational telecommunications company LM Ericsson, there are now seven participating schools across the Midlands region.

JUMP Maths (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies), is a Canadian organization and a registered charity which champions innovative methods to stimulate enthusiasm and improve educational attainment in Mathematics. The JUMP Maths philosophy is founded on a belief that all children have the capability to perform well in Maths and its methods aim to remove common myths and psychological barriers to effective learning in this essential subject.

Deirdre Giblin, R&D Operations Manager at Ericsson commented,
“Ericsson Athlone is delighted to be involved in the Jump Maths initiative in the Midlands. We are always happy to support ways to encourage students of all ages to explore their talents and reach their full potential. We are proud of all the students that are involved in the programme and it is great to see the positive trends in the results.”

Dr. John Mighton, an author, playwright and mathematician, started a tutoring club in his apartment in 1998 after noticing that mathematics education in the school system was not unlocking the real potential of its students. He developed the first set of materials for his tutoring club and very quickly found a group of volunteers that helped build a set of materials, resources and tools that taught math in a way well-suited for the inquisitive minds of young people. Now, JUMP Math provides a set of resources to mathematics educators around the world.

CEO of Atlantic Corridor, Jackie Gorman said,
“Many students face unnecessary fears when it comes to learning Maths but the positive feedback we have had from teaching staff involved in the delivery of JUMP locally indicates that the programme is really helping to build confidence and ability.”

JUMP Math materials provide support for all ability levels, enabling teachers to build confidence amongst weaker students while still challenging those at more advanced levels, and encouraging all pupils to verbalise their thinking and problem solving skills. Studies on the effectiveness of the programme have shown major improvements in achievement levels, but also in students’ confidence and overall attitudes towards learning maths. The unique combination of careful teaching, continuous assessment and a variety of innovative approaches, enables teaching staff to raise the overall level of attainment while tailoring tutoring methods to individual student needs.

Principal of Scoil Mhuire Convent Primary School in Roscommon, Una Feeley commented,

‘The results from using JUMP Math so far have been very encouraging. A number of students have mentioned how the tools used in this programme have helped them to learn math in much less complicated way and they certainly seem to enjoy the subject more too which is so important for its success. We were so grateful to have had this recent opportunity to learn first-hand from the programme founder Dr.John Mighton himself and look forward to continuing with JUMP Math in the year ahead.’

10th anniversary of world’s largest Maths festival

More than 250,000 students and adults will have taken part in at least one Maths Week event before it ends on October 18th..

Maths Week is an all-Ireland effort to raise interest in mathematics and show people, that the subject isn’t as difficult as it sometimes seems.

Maths-related events will take place across the country this week for the 10th anniversary of this festival of maths, involving all the academic institutes and many other companies and partners.

Keep an eye on the events page for some our own exciting maths related news and events during Science Week!