Calmast WIT for Maths Week Ireland

Optional Abstract: 

Maths Week Ireland (www.mathsweek.ie) is a grassroots maths outreach activity to promote maths and its applications to all levels of mathematical ability, stages of learning and ages. It is partnership between groups on the island of Ireland, North and South, with interest in promotion of maths. In 2011 over 120,000 school pupils participated in school, an estimated 20,000 attended events at partner centres with tens of thousands more seeing the maths presence through Maths in the City events and public posters and hundreds of thousands more exposed to the message through media. The quality of engagement has been rated very highly. The initiative was developed and is coordinated by Calmast at Waterford Institute of Technology and in six years has grown to a partnership of over 50 including all universities and most higher education institutes, with museums, libraries, professional bodies. This movement is not only sustainable but continues to grow

Purpose
The organiser Calmast (www.calmast.ie) is a STEM outreach centre involved in promotion of all aspects of STEM. Although initial motivation for promoting maths was to support engineering and science it was decided at the beginning Maths Week should promote all areas of maths to all, and indeed to recognise maths as part of our culture. This extremely wide scope is one of the strengths of Maths Week Ireland as it allows for great diversity of interests to cooperate for a wider purpose. To make any significant headway it was obvious a very wide partnership was required. Each partner generously realises their own particular interests are best served by working in a larger movement to change overall attitudes towards maths in society. It also promotes north-south cooperation. This is a University Outreach activity that actively supports other universities in developing outreach.
The organisers encourage a wide diversity of activities and approaches. Over 120 events are presented by partner bodies by mathematicians, engineers, scientists, business experts and others. These include lectures, workshops, maths trails and competitions. The organisers bring in some of the best maths presenters from around Europe to tour the island. Resources and advice for schools is provided online where activities included partnership with maths game site MangaHigh.

Impact
In 2011 -
 120,000 participated in in-school activities
 Over 50 partner centres presented over 120 events
 Estimated 20,000 attended these events
 Thousands saw Maths in the City, Belfast, Dublin, Waterford.
 Media coverage reached hundreds of thousands
 6 Specially designed posters sent to almost 5,000 schools
 317 Classes played Targetboard online game for primary schools offering 41,868 solutions.
 500,000 Mangahigh games were played and more than 1,000,000 questions were answered by Maths Week Ireland participants

Awareness of Maths Week is very high through media coverage and posters sent out to all schools (c. 5,000) on the island. Maths Week is now established in school year. Print and broadcast media can carry the message even further with widespread coverage of Maths Week across Ireland. This includes daily Maths Week section in one national newspaper, daily puzzles in several more and photographs, interviews and reports across dozens of regional papers. Interviews with many presenters and partners were carried on many national and regional radio stations while children’s TV programmes carried fun reports. Posters were also displayed on commuter train system in Dublin
An independent survey for teachers was conducted, which showed clearly (www.mathsweek.ie/2011/about/maths-week-ireland-2010-report) that Maths Week Ireland has developed principles that are integral to the needs of teachers and students. 95% of teachers surveyed believed the underlying philosophy of maths for all was important, 100% believed Maths Week Ireland was important to develop a positive attitude for maths with their pupils. Teachers are best placed to assess impact on students and 90% said pupils showed signs of increased enjoyment in maths afterwards.

Originality
Maths Week Ireland is apparently the leading festival of its kind in the world.
Schools around Europe often run a maths week, and there might be regional maths festivals, but there appear to be no other comprehensive “national” maths weeks. In fact Maths Week Ireland spans two countries- Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. The fact that it is a grass roots initiative is novel. Many areas of the initiative are also innovative. The broad scope- promoting all maths for all - gives room for enormous diversity in theme and presentation. Maths in the City has run in the centre of Belfast, Dublin and Waterford cities and in 2011 a maths circus act was commissioned which was performed in the streets. 2011 also saw the premiere of Spanish act Maths Rhythm. Events ranged from Socktastic-Maths Show for early years to Maths in the Pub for adults. Maths is promoted as part of culture through many events, it takes place every year around 16th October, the day the famous Mathematician, William Rowan Hamilton, discovered quaternions in a flash of inspiration and carved the formula on a canal bridge in Dublin. This event is commemorated by the Hamilton Walk (www.maths.may.ie/hamiltonwalk) which introduces the “story of maths” and reminds people of the place of maths in their heritage. The mathematics of one of Ireland’s national treasures, the Tara Brooch, was explored. The mathematical debt that Europe owes to the Islamic world is celebrated with lectures at the Chester Beatty Library. Keeping true to the “maths for all” principle, presenters have also visited disadvantaged schools, children hospitals and prison schools. Events also take place for parents and for 2012 there will be a major initiative on adult numeracy.

Sustainability
The Maths Week model is sustainable because it is a partnership of so many groups. Partners have stayed involved, increased their activity and more partners come along every year. The target is to keep growing the festival until all school pupils and a sizeable proportion of the general population participate. This is achievable through partnership. While sustainability of the festival is not in question the organisers are directing efforts to ensure the impact of the festival is sustained. That is that the positive attitude generated is sustained throughout the school year and translates into better performance at maths. To this aim partners are encouraged to launch projects during maths week or to use maths week as a conclusion or prize-giving for projects. An example is RoI Central Statistics Office John Hooper Prize. Activities tried at maths week may be continued in the classroom and major teacher maths conference is planned for Maths Week 2012. Resources continue to be available to teachers.

“A five star model which should be copied by other countries” Steve Humble, aka Dr Maths
Further information -
www.mathsweek.ie/2011/about/maths-week-ireland-2009-general-report
www.mathsweek.ie/2011/about/maths-week-ireland-2010-report
www.mathsweek.ie/2011/about/maths-week-ireland-2011-preliminary-report

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