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News > Outreach > Creating a new community of online learners during Covid-19

Creating a new community of online learners during Covid-19

King's and Liverpool Maths schools inspire teachers and teenagers during Covid-19
7 Jul 2020

KCLMS and the University of Liverpool Maths School (ULMaS) have helped hundreds of young people and teachers learn from some of the best mathematicians in the country by offering free online classes and training during the Covid-19 pandemic.

KCLMS has provided a live online Further Maths professional development (PD) course for secondary school maths teachers whilst the University of Liverpool Maths School have given advanced mathematics virtual lessons to Year 11 pupils. 

KCLMS' Head Teacher, Dan Abramson, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the importance of disseminating knowledge across all parts of society. Maths schools like ours are not just for our own students. They’re also about providing outreach and support to mathematically switched-on learners from other age groups and teachers.”

KCLMS’ professional development course, comprising six 2-hour sessions, is for teachers who would like to consolidate, develop and extend their subject knowledge. The course is also relevant for experienced teachers who enjoy looking at familiar topics in a new light. 

Thanks to the generous support of the Worshipful Company of Actuaries, with whom King’s Maths School has a long-standing relationship, there has been no fee or charge to undertake this training. Over 200 teachers from as far and wide as Gloucestershire, Liverpool, London, the Scottish Highlands and Malaysia have participated.  

Mr Abramson said: “We were concerned that teachers are not able to access face-to-face PD due to the pandemic. We felt it was important to find some alternative methods of delivery. Our outreach work with teachers is about empowering them to not only deepen their grasp of advanced mathematics but also challenge, inspire and enthuse their own students.” 

In a similar way to KCLMS, the University of Liverpool Maths School, the first specialist maths school in the North of England, aims to deliver a rich community engagement programme in order to develop mathematical curiosity and help learners be better prepared for A Level study. 

Damian Haigh, the school’s founding head teacher, said: “Supporting students who share the same enthusiasm for advanced mathematics, regardless of their background, is core to our outreach work. When the pandemic emerged, I promised the year 11 students that I would turn our evening classes on Higher Tier GCSE Maths prep into online sessions. It’s been delightful to witness first-hand how our online tuition is helping so many young people.”

Every day at 10 AM and 11 AM approximately 200 adolescents have logged on to the lessons via Zoom, which last about 45 minutes. Although the majority are from the Merseyside and Manchester area, students also join from as far as the Isle of Man and Cumbria. The courses are for Year 11 students planning to study A-Level Maths or Further Maths in Year 12. 

Seeking to inspire their learners’ curiosity, KCLMS and the University of Liverpool Maths School have deployed engaging teaching methods to make the online classes as stimulating and intellectually rigorous as possible. 

Mr Haigh has given his students the opportunity to not only solve mathematical problems but also enjoy social interaction such as exchanging maths jokes. Unusually, Mr Haigh has been teaching from a Victorian algebra book, H.S. Hall and S.R.Knight’s Elementary Algebra for Schools. Written in 1885, the textbook contains over 3,500 questions for students to practice and provides a systematic approach to learning algebra. 

KCLMS’s Further Maths PD course, which examines key topics and concepts in the Further Maths Core Pure syllabus, is taught by Robert Wilne, a highly experienced sixth-form teacher and PD leader, who leads KCLMS’ GCSE+ enrichment programmes. Incorporating a range of online collaboration techniques, the course gives teachers the opportunity to talk about and enjoy ‘hard sums’ with like-minded peers. 

Teachers’ feedback has been overwhelmingly positive including that the course demonstrates “just how brilliant maths is at this level.” One teacher remarked: “I can always learn the techniques to answer questions from a book, but not the interesting ways to present it to students.” Others observed how they are learning “to challenge Year 12 students to think deeply and explore concepts” and lauded Mr Wilne for “prioritising the student perspective.” 

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