Rob Eastaway/Maths Inspiration come to Devon and West Somerset

Thursday 15th July 2021

After what seems like an age, three schools in the South West region welcomed myself and Rob Eastaway through their doors in the middle of June. Rob had mentioned on Twitter that he was keen to take his inspirational and highly entertaining maths enrichment talks back into schools now that students have returned to the classroom. The Gryphon School in Sherborne, Dorset immediately got in touch with him asking him to talk to their Year 10 cohort, at which point Rob contacted myself to see if we could incorporate a couple more schools into his South West odyssey. As a result, the Exeter Maths School and West Somerset College in Minehead were added to his itinerary.

Despite the Covid-19 situation easing in recent months, there was a quick reminder of the challenges that schools and colleges still face when Rob’s talk at The Gryphon School was affected by a recently diagnosed case of the virus in one of the students in Year 10. Hence, instead of collecting the entire year group into their assembly hall, it was decided that Rob would deliver his talk on the Maths of Games to a single class in Year 10 and broadcast it to all the other Year 10 classes via a live video feed. They say necessity is the mother of invention and this has been demonstrated time and again in the past year and half as teachers have had to adapt to overcome challenges imposed on them by the pandemic. Whilst, in an ideal world, Rob would have liked to have delivered the talk to the whole year group, it was still felt to be a very rich and rewarding experience for the students watching remotely.

The following day, Rob’s talks to the Year 13 students in Exeter and the Year 10 students in Minehead went off without a hitch. Both talks were, unsurprisingly, excellent and raised many fascinating thoughts, observations and questions for the assembled students (and teachers), such as:

  • Why are students in New Zealand much more likely to collaborate effectively than students in the UK?
  • Why do we still use imperial units for certain measures even though the metric system was introduced as the system for measurement approximately 50 years ago?

We learnt how to calculate the size of the oceans on the back of an envelope, which maths skills engineering course leaders at university most value, what the best property on the Monopoly board to invest in is, and how to adapt the game of 'Play Your Cards Right' so that students have to incorporate more strategy into their thinking.

In the region of 250 students received a talk from Rob over the course of the three events and we'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in making these work so well – the teachers, students and, of course, Rob himself. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come as we optimistically look forward to the next academic year.

By Tom Rainbow

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