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Case studies

Tour de Maths

The ‘Tour de Maths’ was designed to demonstrate to students the relevance of mathematics outside of the classroom setting. The tour was developed by mathematicians from the Environmental Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter (Penryn Campus) and completed between the 25th and 27th June 2014. On the tour the team promoted mathematics to over 400 pupils, aged between 11 and 17, from 14 schools. The team cycled over 100 miles across nine towns over 3 days.

The tour was motivated by the interaction and conversation between university staff and school teachers which demonstrated the need to inspire students about the scope of mathematics in real life and was designed to provide a glimpse of the careers that the study of mathematics can lead to. The team gave workshops at the schools they visited that were based on the application of mathematics to answer questions inspired by the use of sustainable transport. Students completed tasks that were based on speed, distance and time, by using route planning problems on graphs and optimisation using linear programming. Younger pupils enjoyed solving problems concerned with distance estimates and shortest travel routes. Older students tried using linear programming to answer more complex problems.

Worksheets were designed to engage students and to empower them by asking them to solve realistic contemporary problems with the knowledge and techniques that they have at their disposal. The project encouraged early career researchers to engage in outreach and demonstrated to them that these activities are rewarding and enjoyable. The additional cycling feature of this activity added a good context to the maths problems that were given to the students and the students seemed excited about the novelty of the events.