• Question: how does these workshops help general maths and how people learn in different ways?

    Asked by aliyah01 to Sam on 16 Jan 2020.
    • Photo: Samantha Durbin

      Samantha Durbin answered on 16 Jan 2020:

      The Masterclass programme which I work on is series of usually six workshops. We’ll work with someone (often someone based at a university or a school, but sometimes a group of complete volunteers) who wants to run them for students in their area. All the schools in the catchment area (which is usually as big as a county, for secondary level) are asked if they want to put forward just a handful of students in the correct year-group to attend. We usually work with Year 9s in England and Wales, S2 or S3 in Scotland and Year 10 in Northern Ireland, though in some areas there are series for other year-groups too. We ask teachers to choose students they feel would really benefit from attending, and to choose those who might not always be picked for similar sorts of activities. The students attend all of the workshops in the series so they get to try a range of different topics.
      The idea of the workshops is to allow the students to explore topics in maths that they don’t get to see in the classroom, so they get to see some of the really cool and interesting areas of the subject which aren’t linked to the curriculum or their exams. Most mathematicians didn’t get to explore the really interesting stuff until after school, so it’s important for students to get some insight into what the subject actually is (and some of them might then want to study it further). One of the main aims of the sessions is just that – to enable the student to see what the subject it and hopefully inspire them to want to continue their interest (whether that is further study, work, or even just being interested later in life). It’s also important that the students get to see different people leading the workshops each time, so they get to meet a range of people who use maths in their day-to-day lives – a bit like the “I’m a mathematican” competition, though in a different way. They also get to meet people from lots of different schools at the workshops, because there are lots of other people out there with similar interests, they might just not be at the same school as you. So it’s a place to make new friends and see that there is a community of people who also like maths.
      As for people learning in different ways, the people leading the workshops will try to get a variety of different activities in there, and when we train new workshop leaders we make sure they are thinking about how to be inclusive to different people. It does take practice, but across a series of workshops the students will see different teaching styles as well as different content, so there should be something for everyone.