Jokes add fun to maths tasks
STUDENTS have been learning maths through jokes, magic tricks, video clips and brain-teasers as part of a new focus on the subject at their college.
Stoke-on-Trent College held its first dedicated maths week, which saw thousands of students across all its courses weave numeracy activities into their lessons.
Although the main emphasis was on decimals, fractions and percentages, they also got the chance to try out fun challenges via the college's intranet site.
It included daily maths competitions, with prizes such as Alton Towers tickets, MP3 players and gift vouchers.
Lecturer Martin Newton, the college's new maths champion, said: "It has created a great deal of interest. We are trying to raise the profile of maths."
Each term, all the college's students will be taking part in both a maths week and an English week to help them put their basic skills into practice.
It coincides with changes happening from September, when the national education leaving age is being raised from 16 to 17.
By 2015, all teenagers will be expected to continue with education or training until 18.
And if they missed out on C grades in their maths and English GCSEs at school, they will have to continue studying these subjects post-16.
Functional maths – the kind of practical problem-solving that relates to everyday life – has also been incorporated into all vocational courses.
Now the college is keen to show maths can be interesting, rather than a chore.
Alima Ahmed, aged 17, from Shelton, said the approach has been very different to school.
She is studying a diploma in ICT and doing maths GCSE at college.
Alima said: "I passed the GCSE at school and got a C. But I want to get an A or a B, so I'm doing it again.
"Maths is so important for your future. But I think a lot of people are put off maths because there are so many numbers. It's getting your head round it."
Alima didn't try the daily quizzes last week, but she has seen the jokes and other maths teasers on the intranet site.
Among the jokes on the pages was: "What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt."
There were also counting tricks to 'guess' numbers.
Meanwhile, the video clips proved entertaining, with one showing somebody propelling themselves into the air and landing in a paddling pool.
This daredevil stunt relied on them knowing the distance they needed to travel.Another video featured James Blunt on children's TV show Sesame Street, singing a new version of his chart-topping hit 'You're Beautiful'.
The lyrics referred to percentages and shapes.
Student Annie Rorbach, from Tunstall, has also enjoyed the more relaxed approach to maths.
The 38-year-old, who has dyslexia, left school at 16 with no qualifications.
But she recently plucked up the courage to enrol for a maths GCSE course at college.
"I signed up because of my kids. They are aged 21, 16, 11 and nine. The younger ones were doing maths stuff in school that I didn't know," she said.
"When I first walked through the door at college, I was a bag of nerves. But the tutor's been brilliant.
"We've been doing a lot of visual work, including card-matching activities. Now I hope to pass on my maths knowledge to my kids."
Across the college, there have been a variety of maths activities during the week.
Some students were challenged to measure the size of a room and then plan a design for it.
While in engineering, they looked at percentage error and the need for accuracy.