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Is it possible for online enrichment events to replicate face-to-face events… and still be enjoyable and useful?

The answer to the above question is, it seems, “yes!” Obviously, I think everyone – schools, teachers, students – would prefer it if events were taking place as they used to, with AMSP local Area Coordinators and Associates making in-person visits to schools to engage students in activties to promote the study of post-16 maths. However, as for the most part this can’t happen yet, I’ve worked with a number of schools to offer an online alternative, aiming to replicate the original events as closely as possible.

In particular, I felt that single-school, single-class events, fitting into lesson times, ought to be not merely possible but actually work as well as the original model – and, in some important ways, work even better. The key to these events has always been ‘activity’: ensuring that students have things to do in order to better understand post-16 maths courses, rather than listening to people like me talk about post-16 maths courses. With students back in school, I relaised there was actually no obstacle to students doing the same activities as previously. For example, one activity that I’ve used successfully on many occasions is an optimisation problem involving cans of baked beans.

Having learned that the cans hold the same amount, students’ next task is to gather data concerning what happens to the surface area as the radius is changed.

Whereas the AMSP in-person presenter would ordinarily direct activities and answer students’ queries, for the online version the class teacher performed this role instead. This is in my view a significant and very worthwhile development: class teachers have become by necessity much more closely involved in the activity and I think this has a very positive effect on students’ understanding and motivation. A brief pre-event meeting online, to check the technology and to discuss the content, hasn’t proved onerous and has led to a more seamless and collaborative feel to the sessions.

Other essential aspects of these sessions, such as collating students’ data from the above task and displaying it on a graph, can just as easily be completed using an online graph-plotter and writing tablet. Using my own equipment led to fewer technological issues due to unfamiliarity. Safeguarding considerations were easily addressed: schools invite AMSP personnel into their chosen online platform where we’re bound to follow the schools’ established protocols, so there are no grey areas of responsibility.

Core Maths students learn about the ‘Core Maths way’ by thinking about the issues involved in planning a local festival in Sefton Park, Liverpool.

As with previous face-to-face enrichment sessions like these, it’s been perfectly possible to modify existing resources to cater for the particular requirements of the class – whether they’re more interest in Core Maths, for example, or Further Maths, or a combination of post-16 qualifications.

So even though I’ll willingly embrace the return of in-person visits to schools when the time comes, I think for convenience and efficiency reasons – the online version is here to stay!

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