A level and Further Maths
Steve Hewson, NRICH Post-16 coordinator and developer of stemNRICH, describes the development of ‘stemNRICH: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics enriched'.
The NRICH team has long promoted the use of rich mathematical tasks in the teaching and learning of mathematics for learners aged five to 19 and the NRICH website now contains thousands of free rich mathematical problems, articles and resources which are widely and productively used in mathematics classrooms across the country.
With the increasing prominence of STEM we realised that there was a growing need for teachers and learners to better appreciate the way in which mathematics relates to the sciences, technology and engineering in STEM. We also realised that there was a need for good scientific mathematics tasks which were both genuinely scientific and genuinely mathematical; we felt that NRICH had something positive to offer to mathematics learning in this wider scientific context. So, following an exciting and innovative development period at the start of 2010, we launched the first phase of our collection of scientific mathematics tasks: stemNRICH.
stemNRICH presently consists of over 100 scientific mathematics activities designed to develop key areas of scientific mathematics thinking for post-16 learners. The choice of topic areas was made in collaboration with school, college and university science teachers, who indicated the key mathematical areas of importance. We chose to split the content into Core Scientific Mathematics, which underpins all scientific activity, along with subject specific areas for biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. To complete the set we included an Advanced Scientific Mathematics section, which supports the more mathematically demanding aspects of physics, engineering and applied mathematics.
Within each node, the material is organised into intuitive overall categories, such as Curve Fitting and Sketching, Measurement and Estimation, Proportional Reasoning, Dilutions, Atoms and Particles or Digital Circuits and Logic. There are many different styles of activity, ranging from quick starters and discussion tasks to open investigations and longer, sustained mathematical activities. Throughout we have tried to keep the activities relevant, stimulating and interesting and many include randomisation and interactivities. Each problem has background information on the context, guidance notes for teachers, hints and solutions along with supporting articles, many written by students for students. It is well worth browsing the material across topics as there are many natural areas of overlap between disciplines, particularly chemistry – biology and physics – engineering.
We hope that the material in stemNRICH will be used to bring more mathematics into the science classroom, more science into the mathematics classroom and encourage more cross-departmental collaboration. We hope that as a consequence of this learners of all ages will begin to better appreciate the wider importance, scope and beauty of mathematics. We also hope that such learners will choose to continue to study more mathematics and leave school better equipped to succeed in STEM courses and the workplace beyond. To get started, why not simply choose a resource and try it out in class? If you need any advice, please get in touch.
Note: from September 2010 onwards we plan to develop stemNRICH further into Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 science and mathematics. Please do get in touch with Steve if you have any comments or might wish to contribute to this next phase of development.