MONDAY, 29 MAY 2023At the peak of the pandemic, the University of Cambridge’s flagship NRICH mathematics outreach project (nrich.maths.org) reported over a million weekly pageviews of its school resources. These include mathematical problems and games, all with accompanying teachers’ notes, as well as articles for teachers focusing on mathematics and mathematical teaching.
NRICH is widely recognised for its ‘low threshold high ceiling’ (LTHC) tasks, inspired by the pioneering MIT and Cambridge mathematician Seymour Papert. In practice, a LTHC task means everyone can get started, and everyone can get stuck.
The resources are curriculum-mapped, meaning that the prior mathematical knowledge needed for each task is clear and so teachers can identify the most suitable activities for their classes. These will vary depending on the age and prior attainment of the learners, and ensures that everyone in the class can get started.
Learning to recognise what it feels like to be stuck, and having strategies to get yourself unstuck, is a crucial mathematical skill, and is part of becoming a resilient mathematician. Some undergraduates reflect on the shock of finding mathematics difficult for the first time at university!
In summary, NRICH’s LTHC activities enable whole classes to work together on the same task, rather than different children working on different activities. When the ceiling is raised it can be surprising what heights learners can achieve.
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