Teachers - Feedback from Bearsden Academy School Visit

Feedback from the teacher

We have for the last 3 years organised an event to introduce our pupils to the Higher Mathematics course. In Scotland, SQA ‘Highers’ are the main exams for entry to Higher Education and in our school of approx 1200 pupils we usually have around 130 pupils following this course. Some of our pupils were still sitting SQA exams and so we had an attendance of approx 90 new S5 pupils, mostly aged 16 years, at this year’s event.

Previously we organised and ran all activities using Maths dept. staff – activities designed to recap essential algebra skills required for the Higher course, to develop pupils reasoning skills and to allow them to work in a range of styles, individually and collaboratively. Last year we used TI-Nspire handhelds for some of these sessions to add an ICT element to the event.

This year I decided to introduce contact with Higher Education to the programme and the range of activities on the LearnAboutOR website seemed an ideal starting point. We had two O.R. professionals volunteer to run the workshop. We contacted each other by e-mail and agreed the format for the session. I managed to meet one of them the day before the event and this was helpful.

The ‘Linear Programming’ activity from the LearnAboutOR website was run by the two volunteers with two groups of 45 pupils in two back to back sessions and I assisted them. Some pupils approached the problem in an analytical way, others by an organised numerical approach, but all were engaged by the activity.

We sampled pupils’ views on the event and their response to this element has been positive. I felt that it offered our pupils’ a convincing, accessible context for the application of some of their existing Maths knowledge and that it widened their horizons of possible career options.

I would certainly be keen to include a similar activity as part of next year’s event.

Feedback from the volunteers

We volunteered to help out with the school’s induction day.  The cohort was split into two groups of around 45 pupils and we ran a Linear Programming problem for approximately 45 minutes.  The groups were presented with the problem and then left in small groups to try and sort it.  We went around the groups giving them suggestions and helping them work through it.  Different groups had different approaches; some groups used trial and error by enumerating answers and came up with the correct answer, and some groups attempted to use their recent knowledge about using equations.  All pupils were encouraged to determine a method of solving the problem as well as the solution.

The pupils seemed to enjoy solving the problem and it was really interesting to watch them work in groups.  Some pupils initially felt they could not do it, but with some encouragement they joined in with the rest of the groups.  Many of the pupils seemed surprised that Maths could be used in the ‘real world’ and that it was not just Maths teachers that could do Maths.

Our help was appreciated very well by the school staff, and they have already started talking about repeating the event next year.  The feedback we obtained a few days after the event from the maths teacher sounded very positive, that many pupils found the O.R. perspective interesting and enjoyed the event.

From our perspective, it required little preparation: the problem and the slides were all on the LearnAboutOR website; and we just added a couple slides with a bit technical information for the interested and skilled pupils, as well as mentioning a real world example from airline industry to draw more interest.  It was an enjoyable way to spend a morning and we were glad we could promote O.R. – a classic win-win situation!

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