The Science Museum Group Academy develops and delivers courses, resources and wider programmes that are shaped and informed by science capital, wider engagement research and best practice in informal learning settings. We aim to help inspire the widest possible audience and have developed a set of engagement reflection points as a tool to help practitioners critically look at, and reflect on, what they are doing through the eyes of their audiences:
My role includes developing the courses and resources for maths engagement and I’ve come across many misconceptions people have about maths:
“People say that they can’t do Maths and it seems acceptable to say they can’t do it, but fewer people would be willing to say they couldn’t read.”– Parent in a study conducted by the Science Museum Audience Research team.
Since some people see themselves as people who ‘can’t do maths’, it’s vital to create an environment that gives them the confidence to participate, and see that it as something they can do. Our reflection points can be a tool to help increase confidence and broaden the perception of what maths is by highlighting how maths and maths skills are used every day.
‘What is a mathematician?’ is a difficult question to answer. However, almost everyone uses maths as part of their jobs, whether it’s data interpretation, budgeting, time management or many other uses of maths. For example, a doctor will use data interpretation to figure out why someone feels unwell, a family will work within a budget to balance what income they have and their costs, a bus driver will keep an eye on time and wait at stops to even out the service, a firefighter will estimate distances for which hoses and ladders to use when putting out a fire. It’s important to broaden people’s perspective of who uses maths.
Many people see maths as just something that is learned in school. But it really is everywhere, and it’s crucial to think about how to link the content to people’s rich and diverse interests and experiences. Maths is in getting the right milk-to-water ratio for the perfect cup of tea, in the patterns that make up the clothes we wear as well as the programming and running of the machines used to make them. It’s having enough change to pick up a treat at the corner shop and being able to interpret graphs and diagrams in the media to understand the news story.
A question that often gets asked in maths is ‘When will I use this’. There are certainly examples of when calculating, geometry, statistics and other subjects of maths are incredibly useful, but a key part of when maths is used is the application of the skills that maths develops. For example, deciding how to get to school may include thinking about how many pedestrian lights there are, as well as the physical route and distance, and how fast different routes have been in the past. The logical reasoning to arrive at your decision of how to get to school and when to leave is a key maths skill. It’s important to get people to recognize they have, and already use, the wide range of skills that are useful in science, technology, engineering and maths.
We can use our engagement reflection points to make maths more inclusive for everyone, and by doing so, we can not only increase maths engagement but engagement in science, technology and engineering. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll look at how we have used our reflection points to help develop our new maths resources.
Our ‘maths engagement’ series shares insights from the research, development, and delivery stages of our new maths engagement offer which is supported by the Science Museum Group Academy’s Major Partner MathWorks.