June 3, 2020, by pmxskb

Maths Outreach Continues During Lockdown

While many activities and events have been cancelled in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our researchers and PhD students find ways to continue with engaging the public in mathematics.  We have spoken to PhD students Heather Collis and Sarah Brown as well as Assistant Professor Katie Severn about what outreach activities they have been able to do during this time.

Sarah and Katie are part of the ‘I’m a Mathematician: Circle Zone’, which connects school students and youth groups with mathematicians and their teachers during school closures.  This is based on the ‘I’m a Scientist’ platform and involves 40 minute live text-based chat sessions where the students can ask the mathematicians anything they like.  This can be anything from how they use maths in their area of work to what subjects they enjoyed most when at school.  Sarah, having previously participated in the ‘I’m a Scientist: Medical Research Zone’, says that “these are such great platforms for school students to engage with researchers and I think that it is especially important to have activities like this at the moment! The students get to see mathematicians and scientists as normal, relatable people, as well as seeing how the maths they learn in school applies to the real world. I am always so impressed with the questions that I get asked!”

Both Heather and Sarah have completed a ‘My Skills My Life’ role model profile for the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) campaign. The WISE ‘My Skills My Life’ campaign is a research-based approach that aims to challenge the perceptions of STEM careers by school age girls. This initiative uses an online quiz to determine the personality type of a young person and then shows the careers of STEM professionals with similar skills.

Heather tells us “I’ve also created a ‘Spotlight On’ profile about my work as an interdisciplinary researcher in plant sciences. The profile will be sent to schools so they can use it as guidance when discussing career options in the sciences. Each profile includes an activity that students may be able to undertake in a science class. Teachers have even expressed interest in using them for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Maths) projects, where students create pieces of fiction using the ‘Spotlight On’ profiles as inspiration for their writing.”

Assistant Professor Katie Severn even displays bright and interesting maths in her window with the hope of inspiring passers by (see pic above)!

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