Mathematical enrichment in Australia and around the world

A School of education seminar presented on November 7th, 2018 by Dr Thomas Kalinowski and Dr Lena Schmalz

For the speakers there are two main motivations for being interested in mathematical outreach for school students:

  1. their positive experience with a range of extracurricular mathematical activities when they were school children themselves, and
  2. the experience of teaching university students who get very frustrated with mathematics.

In our opinion, this negative view of the subject is caused in part by a lack of exposure to aspects of mathematics that might not be properly reflected in the school curriculum. Mathematical enrichment can play a role in remedying this, and we believe that outreach activities can contribute to reducing the frustration that is often associated with learning (and teaching) mathematics.

In the talk, we will discuss some of our personal experiences with mathematical enrichment activities. This includes involvement on both sides: as participants of math clubs, correspondence circles and math olympiads when we were in middle and high school, and later in various roles related to organising and teaching in such activities in Europe and Australia.

In particular, we want to present two recent initiatives here at UNE: a website with mathematical problems aimed at high school students and teachers, and a weekly problem-solving session for middle school children (year 4 to 6).

We hope that the presentation can help initiating a discussion process and an exchange of ideas between specialists in education and mathematics with the goal to better understand how to provide enrichment activities that are enjoyable and satisfying for both students and teachers, which will then almost automatically result in better learning outcomes.