For the CBM conference, I used a slide and the following were the planned message for each slide. The slide can be accessed here (click to view).
- I’d like to thank the organisers for the opportunity share some initiatives we have taken in Kenya. I’d also like to acknowledge Rockefeller and the Statistical Services Centre, University of Reading for the collaboration which brought me to the UK and has enabled me to attend this event.
- My talk today is about the Maseno maths camp
- I work at Maseno University; it is a public Kenyan university whose claims fame is that it is, to the best of my knowledge, the only university in the world where the equator passes through the main campus.
- The Kenyan curriculum is based on calculation. The Maths camp aims to excite students in Mathematics which is not calculation based.
- The maths camp encourages students to solve puzzles and explore mathematical concepts.
- The first Camp was a small scale success with immense positive feedback and one major complaint. There was too much free time the day should be longer!!
- The second camp was bigger, the day was longer and the feedback was still very positive with the main complaint being about the accommodation.
- There are a number of key themes that have been used in the Maths camps… list them
- In Kenya, playing card games has been looked at as a negative influence on kids. A big part of the camp was dedicated to playing games, and demonstrating their usefulness in teaching children how to understand and follow rules as well as trying to come up with good strategies.
- Everyone was given packs of cards to take away with them.
- Statistics is my area and I believe strongly that we have to get students at all levels to be able to work with data.
- Focus on descriptive and exploratory statistics. Many of the students had never touched a computer before but they picked it up within a few hours on the computer.
- Gapminder had very good data presentations that students quickly understood. The caption compares health (y) and wealth (X). Kenya and S. Korea have their trajectories from 1963 to 2009. This is used to get students and staff thinking about what development could really mean and relates to Kenya’s vision 2030…
- Tinkerplots was used to get students to explore their own data, which was collected as they arrived and halfway through the week, and then given back to them to explore.
- CAST which stands for computer ass… includes exercises, an adapted version for New Zealand schools and has been shown to be effective to help teach statistics in Kenya. A colleague is currently creating a version related to the Kenyan syllabus.
- The image shows them learning how to estimate mean and median in random dataset which may or may not be skew. This exercise reinforces the fact that computers can help improve mental estimation.
- The Geometry sessions served multiple purposes. They provided an opportunity for students to be creative while also providing the opportunity to stretch students beyond their comfort zone. Spherical geometry was discussed in 2011 and projective geometry in 2012.
- Even with the limited computing skills, remember that many students had never used a computer before; the aim was to get students to be able to create simple animations for themselves.
- With GeoGebra, this was achievable and there was even a small competition to create animated house logos.
- Programming is important; if you can write code to do something then you have understood it.
- Computer literacy was too low to assume that students would be able to write computer code but the concepts behind how a computer work and the basics of programming can be taught through practical activities and puzzles.
- Participants acted as human robots and followed instructions from this limited syntax to move objects from one place to another.
- This was to get them understand the nature of computers and how to follow a logic flow when programming.
- Modelling natural phenomena was also used to expand the notion of mathematics. One example of this was the model of swarms, such as schools of fish or flocks of birds.
- Students were told about the simple rules which govern the behaviour
- Only be aware of your neighbours
- Move in the same direction
- Aim to keep a constant distance apart
- Run away from predators
- (Say before you show) Students were asked to follow these rules in the field.
- Students were challenged to understand an open problem in research mathematics. This topic started by discussing how problems can be simplified when posed as other problems.
- We introduced a game called 15; two participants chose a number between 1 and 9 without replacement, one at a time. The winner is the one who chose any three numbers that added to 15 first.
- The numbers can be thought of as being in this pattern in a square
- Which transforms the game to the game of noughts and crosses / tic-tac-toe. This principal of transformation was then used to reframe a question in research mathematics.
- Unconventional number systems and modular arithmetic were introduced as a step towards being able to work with codes.
- Throughout the week code breaking came up in sessions and puzzles and at the end of the week students wrote their own codes to encrypt some of the clues for the treasure hunt and then tried to crack each other’s codes.
- You need to thank all the people who were involved in running the Maths camp, it is entirely run by volunteers with the international volunteers even paying for their own airfares!
- We would like to acknowledge that this would not be possible without the software we have been using, almost all of which is free to distribute. The few commercial packages we have used were licenced freely for the camp by the developers. We would also like to thank Wolfram research for the donation of playing cards and the US embassy for sponsoring a large number of participants.
- I will leave you with a couple of the student journal entries. They were asked to write something every day and their entry was then photographed and made available online. These are not representative entries. Thanks you for listening