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Maths matters: Felixstowe Academy and Trinity join forces

A new collaboration between Felixstowe Academy, Trinity College Cambridge and Cambridge University’s NRICH project will build the mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills of hundreds of secondary school students.

The three-year initiative led by Felixstowe Academy is the first of its kind for Trinity College, which is renowned for mathematics. Admissions Tutor at Trinity, Professor Adrian Poole, said:

We are delighted to be involved with this innovative partnership aimed at raising the aspirations and ambitions of students and supporting teachers in Felixstowe. Trinity is celebrated for its mathematics, science and engineering, including ongoing research at the Large Hadron Collider, on offshore wind energy and climate change. We want to help inspire young people with a sense of the importance of mathematics and the way it underpins all kinds of activities at every level, in school, university and beyond.

Head of Maths at Felixstowe Academy, Steve Jones, said the partnership was ‘an amazing opportunity’:

The project will enable us to be involved in many activities that our students may not have had the opportunity to participate in before. It will improve their ability to engage with problems and help them understand that not knowing the answer is just the start.

NRICH is a programme of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University, which publishes free online mathematics resources for ages 3 to 18, works face-to-face with teachers, and runs events for more than 15,000 school students a year.

Director of NRICH, Ems Lord, welcomed the new collaboration.

‘The new GCSE Maths curriculum stresses the importance of problem-solving, reasoning and fluency, and the partnership will therefore focus on developing students’ mathematical thinking, confidence and ability to tackle mathematical problems.’

As well as supporting students’ mathematical development, the Felixstowe project aims to promote further study of mathematics at A-level and beyond. The Maths Department at Felixstowe Academy already use NRICH problems in their scheme of work.

The initiative began with 95 Felixstowe Academy students in Years 9 and 10 visiting Cambridge on 27 September to participate in a variety of mathematical problem-solving workshops led by the NRICH team, hosted at the University’s Centre for Mathematical Sciences, and followed by lunch at Trinity. Felixstowe students talked to Trinity undergraduates, who took them on tours of the College. ‘Having some of the students show us round and answer our questions made it easier to imagine ourselves here,’ said one Felixstowe student.

Feedback about the day was very positive; comments from students included:

‘I learnt that maths isn’t always about finding an answer, but how you find it.’
‘The teaching and workshops were great fun.’
‘I learnt about solving problems when the obvious course of action is not clear.’

The initiative also includes visits to Felixstowe by Cambridge staff. On 5 and 6 October all Felixstowe Y8 students will participate in problem-solving sessions in an NRICH Hands-On Maths Roadshow. Roadshow activities are designed to help students explore mathematical reasoning and problem solving in an engaging context, and further visits to work with other year groups are planned. There will also be professional development opportunities for Felixstowe Academy teachers with Cambridge University’s NRICH team.

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