Mitigating educational interruption during lockdown and beyond
With schools in the UK currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents, students and teachers are more reliant than ever on trusted and established online education resources. The Millennium Mathematics Project (MMP), an award-winning Cambridge maths education and outreach initiative for ages 3 to 19 and the wider public, is supporting home learning for children worldwide.
The MMP is a collaboration between the Faculties of Mathematics and Education at the University of Cambridge and is active internationally. Combining expertise from both faculties, the project's work is primarily online, through focused, complementary programmes. Resources and activities cover all stages of school education, from early years through primary and secondary education to the transition from school to university, and include support and professional development for teachers. Programmes focus on enabling all students to develop their potential, and address inequalities in educational experience that create barriers to access. Activities build understanding and encourage curiosity and discovery by highlighting the role of maths in the wider world. Plus, MMP's online mathematics magazine for example, examines the contribution of maths in the current crisis, explaining and exploring the mathematics underlying many of the concepts and terms that are now used daily. A common thread running through programmes is the development of students' mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills, building resilience and flexibility through rich and engaging mathematical activities.
Since the MMP was originally launched we have seen enormous growth in the audience for our resources and activities, reflecting the fact that our work is meeting a real need.
Since lockdown began MMP's NRICH site in particular has seen a huge surge in demand. As educators around the world, including the Department for Education, recommend NRICH resources, the site has attracted up to 1.25 million pageviews per week. The NRICH programme contains a huge bank of free, age-specific resources for teachers to use when teaching remotely. Over the past few weeks, efforts have been focused on pulling together emergency packages of resources that are particularly suitable for working at home, without the support of a mathematics teacher. Plans are being developed to support BBC Bitesize with extension and follow-up activities for children and to increase the provision of interactive student webinars which give vital opportunities for discussion and collaborative working.
The MMP's over-arching commitment to 'levelling-up' and widening access to the best mathematical education for all young people, irrespective of background, is all the more important as the current school closures exacerbate inequalities in educational access and opportunity. After the immediate crisis eases there will be an entire generation of students who need urgent assistance to address the missed months of education and lessen resulting disadvantage. There will also be an enhanced familiarity with, and expectation for, top-quality online provision of educational mathematical content. MMP is uniquely placed to scale up web-based mathematics provision to counteract the negative effects of such educational interruption, drawing on expertise gained through all its work, including projects with long-term hospitalised children.
Philanthropy plays a vital part in our work, particularly at a time when access to usual funding sources is restricted. If you share our commitment to giving all students access to a rich, imaginative mathematics education and would like to support our work, please contact Josh Bowerman: