Maths Taster Day at Plymouth University

On Tuesday 27th March 2018, 29 able Mathematicians from Year 10 went to Plymouth University for a Maths Taster Day. Students were split into groups and each got to take part in three different sessions.

The Blue Group’s first session looked at the Mathematics; distinguishing a football from a donut using Topology, a topic studied in detail at degree level Maths. Students looked at creating models of 3D shapes; looking at the relationship between the number of faces, edges and vertices. Looking at the Euler characteristic of 3D shapes, students were able to decide if shapes were topologically similar.

The second session looked at decoding, and focused on decoding a real life prisoner of war coded letter (which would have been sent to MI-9 during the war). Students looked at the security of several different coding methods, and attempted to code their own letter to tell someone that they needed their passport information sending – a very interesting use of some of the Maths students learn!

In the afternoon, the students set about The Great Egg Challenge, attempting to make a package that would allow an egg to survive a fall from three storeys. Hannah and Lewis’ group lasted about 90 seconds before their egg was smashed on the floor! This activity was designed to get students thinking about Engineering, and how the Maths they learn is crucial to the Engineering world.  Two out of the six groups successfully managed to protect their eggs from the three storey drop, by attaching them to parachutes and using crushing mechanisms.

The Red Group got to see three very different sessions; the first session was called ‘Mathematical Detective Work: Dimensional Analysis’ – where the students tested the validity of Physics equations, using base units. Students investigated Albert Einstein’s iconic E=MC2, and compared it with other energy equations from Physics to make sure they were not stupid equations. The students then moved onto deriving their own equation for the period of oscillation of a pendulum, using the skills they had just acquired.

The second session was an introduction to the use of R, a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. The session allowed students to explore the capabilities of the program, and how it is used in mathematics at degree level. Students used the software to create; bar charts, scatter diagrams, box plots and other methods of displaying statistics.

The third and final session was focused on Civil Engineering. Students were tasked with creating a bridge out of Sellotape, a stick, an A3 sheet of card and 2 metres of string. The bridges were tested by driving a remote-control digger across each of them. The three different groups of Coombe Dean students came up with three very different designs, and all were able to pass the test.

All students were excellent ambassadors for the school, and definitely came away seeing how many careers rely heavily on Maths – and how beneficial it could be for them to take A-level Mathematics.


B Kellham and T Turner


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