Q. How does this help my school achieve its exam targets?
A. By bringing your students to a Maths Inspiration event you are helping to give them an understanding of WHY maths is important, and where it all fits. Time and again we've heard stories of how groups who attended Maths Inspiration left feeling inspired and motivated, and that the buzz continued into maths lessons, with teachers picking up on points from the events to link into curriculum topics. Indirectly, that's bound to have an impact on exam results. At the same time, you are helping your students to enjoy mathematics - isn't that the most important thing of all?
Q. Where are my school's tickets?
A. We don't issue tickets for our shows. Once you have paid for your seats, you should receive a letter letting you know the arrangements. You will then check in with your party at registration on the day of the show. Seats are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis and we try to keep school groups seated together.
Q. Why not extend your events to a whole day?
A. Two reasons. First, we think that half a day is enough for most schools. You can actually have too much of a good thing. It's better for a school to leave wanting more, than for them to start getting fidgety. And for those schools that are based close to the venue, half-day events mean that you don't lose a whole school day. For those who like whole-day events, there are excellent events run in central London called Maths Fest (go to www.maths-fest.com).
Q. Why are there no events in Scotland?
A. We would love to run Maths Inspiration events across the whole of the UK but the main constraint on us is cost. We run this programme on a tight budget and most events only just break even. Because most of our speakers are based in the South of England, a Scotland event takes up far more of their time (in travel). It is in our plans to run a show in Scotland but we will need a sponsor for it to happen. And if you know of any 'brilliant' maths speakers based in Scotland that would appeal to a mixed audience of 15-17 year olds, do let us know about them. Note that we returned to Cardiff in late 2011 after a three-year gap thanks to sponsorship from Admiral Insurance, who are based there.
Q. How do you choose your speakers?
A. We want our events to show that maths is relevant to everyone, so we look for a mix of speakers who have applied maths in different ways. Typically, our events might have one speaker who trained as a pure mathematician, one who is involved in engineering, and one who has applied maths in a different way. Where possible we also like to have at least one woman speaker. However, the most important factor of all is that we look for speakers who have a passion for maths, and that rare ability to engage, entertain and interact with a large audience of 15-17 year olds.
Q. What is the audience behaviour like?
A. Our audiences so far have generally been fantastic: fully engaged and enthusiastic. We strongly believe that it is unfair and disrespectful to other audience members to tolerate chatter, crisp-bag-rustling or any other distraction, and we ask everyone who comes to respect this. We request that in respect to other schools you do not bring any pupils who you know are going to find it difficult to behave in an appropriate manner.
Q. Why don't you run more events for Year 10s and below?
A. We do run some Year 9/10 shows in conjunction with the Further Maths Support Programme, but there are constraints on this. Interactivity is important at this age, so the audiences have to be smaller (making shows less viable). Also, while many of our speakers are great for older audiences, engaging 13-14 year olds is more challenging and we have a smaller pool of speakers who are used to that age group.
Some people have commented to us that by aiming most of our events at Years 11 and 12, we are preaching to the converted. If only this were so! In fact, the majority of sixth formers studying maths are, at best, lukewarm about the subject, and have had little or nothing to inspire them in their school careers. Maths Inspiration serves a critical role in encouraging wavering Year 11-13s to pursue mathematical subjects further. We already have anecdotal evidence that our events have influenced a number of attendees in their choice of A-level and degree.
"Really good to have a 'maths trip', taking away the stress of A-level without dumbing down."