Imperial College London

PhD and secondary school students take a deep dive into advanced mathematics

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London Maths Outreach provides secondary school students the chance to deep dive into advanced mathematics and engage with PhD student volunteers.

Every year Imperial College London offers loads of mathematical outreach activities for students in London that show that maths is interesting and challenging, but most importantly also a lot of fun! Yet there is one demographic that has not always received a lot of attention in the past: students who already know how cool maths is and want to take a deep dive to learn an advanced topic over an extended period of time. That’s why, in 2018, we founded London Maths Outreach, where PhD students teach month-long courses on an advanced topic for secondary school students to attend!

Creative ways to reach out during lockdown

Over the past couple of years our team has increased to 28 volunteers, who run the programme and take turns teaching courses to around 30 students from years 10 to 13. We've engaged with around 80 students in total so far. Most of the volunteers are students at Imperial, but some come from King’s College London and University College London as well, and before lockdown classes were held at each of the three universities in rotation. At the moment universities are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and outreachers everywhere are trying hard to find ways to reach out during lockdown.

Throughout the summer term 2020 we are publishing one class online every week and freely accessible for all. Daniel Platt PhD student, Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London

So, we decided to hold our classes online! Throughout the summer term 2020 we are publishing one class online every week, freely accessible to all - check out the first few weeks on our website. Every class is designed so that students can work through it in around 90 minutes. Half the time is taken up with instructional videos, and the other half is reserved for students to work on exercises directly related to the video content. For enthusiasts, there are additional exercises that would need more than 90 minutes to be solved. There are also course notes that contain all the information from the videos plus some extra material. These are mostly an aid for solving the exercises, and a place where students can look up definitions and statements that are used. All this material is freely available for everyone to look at.

In addition, registered students can also ask questions and post messages on an internal forum, and also hand in their solutions to get feedback. This part is optional: no one has to register in order to view the course materials, and no registered student has to hand in solutions in order to stay registered. One benefit of online classes is that there's no limit to class sizes, and everyone is welcome to register!

Course topics

The course topics are chosen to be different from the school curriculum and are often motivated by the research of the PhD students teaching it. For example, the first online course on metric spaces spans three weeks. Metric spaces are an important topic, appearing in many areas of mathematics. They are about different concepts of distances, for example: what is the distance between the sentences “Today is a beautiful day” and “I like pasta very much”? Or: how to measure the distance between two points on a sphere (like London and Los Angeles on the earth)? These questions are taken from the course exercises and there is more than just one right answer to them, depending on what exactly we mean by distance in that situation.

Get involved!

So, if you are looking for a weekly 90 minute fix of interesting mathematics beyond the national curriculum, have a look at our materials. And if you want, ask questions, have a go at the exercises, and get feedback!

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Reporter

Daniel Platt

Daniel Platt
Department of Mathematics

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