Citizen Maths – Powerful Ideas in Action
Seb Schmoller, Citizen Maths Project Director
Citizen Maths is designed for self-motivated adults who want to improve their grasp of maths. It’s a free, open online course that looks at maths from a different perspective, engaging learners in activities that reveal the ‘maths inside’ - in effect, the practical power of mathematical ideas. With this audience in mind, Citizen Maths resources could be particularly useful for FE teachers, but many secondary teachers will also be able to use them in class, or for directing their students to. Indeed, of the approximately 13,000 people who have so far signed up, about 8% give their age as 16-19, as do over 15% of those who have completed Citizen Maths.
The focus is on the immediate relevance of maths to the problems people need to be able to tackle. Instead of abstract routines, the course uses practical problems to help learners grasp and use some “powerful ideas” in maths. The course covers five such ideas:
Learning about each idea is supported by a mix of short video tutorials, practical exercises, and quizzes, involving five to ten hours of study.
Citizen Maths may also be of use to:
- colleges and other learning providers who want to give enrolled learners an additional or alternative route to improving their maths;
- parents who want to be better able to help their children with their maths.
How does the course work?
The tutorials feature the hands and faces of maths educators Noel-Ann Bradshaw (University of Greenwich) and Paula Philpott (South Eastern Regional College, Lisburn).
The practical exercises use a range of approaches, including:
- tools, like spreadsheets;
- purpose-built self-standing apps of various kinds;
- a modicum of coding in the educational programming language, Scratch.
Each powerful idea is shown in action in several different contexts. For example, 'Uncertainty' involves the following situations:
- Making decisions - value of insurance, risk comparisons;
- Judging - the meaning of cancer screening results;
- Gaming - appreciating odds in roulette, dice, horse-racing;
- Modelling - the uncertain prediction of the weather.
The overall approach of Citizen Maths, the powerful ideas, and the situations in which they are shown in action have been selected in consultation with post-16 mathematics teachers (including Jane Imrie, Deputy Director of NCETM), and with the involvement of maths education specialists at the UCL Institute of Education including Dave Pratt, Piers Saunders, and Graham Griffiths.
Learners work at their own pace, and can choose which parts of Citizen Maths to focus on. They can spread the work on each idea over several weeks or a few days and also go back over areas at will. There is no pressure, nor do learners have anyone looking over their shoulder to see how they are doing.
Here are a couple of short videos with learners and teachers talking about Citizen Maths:
Learners talking about Citizen Maths
Tutors talking about Citizen Maths
To find out more, go to the Citizen Maths website, where teachers and learners can sign up for the course, and where you can find a wide range of support resources for learners and for teachers.