Mathematics, however, is much more than rote memorisation of rules and formulae. As Einstein put it, “Pure Mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas”. As such, creativity should always be at the heart of good mathematics teaching.
One of the great strengths of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Mathematics program is that it recognises this fundamental connection between mathematics and creativity. All IB students have to produce a personalised and sophisticated mathematical investigation on an area of personal interest.
Over the past few years at the British International School Phuket we have seen explorations on such diverse topics as predicting future stock market growth, designing the optimum packaging dimensions for a family business, using mathematical models to understand the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and solving differential equations to predict the spread of Bird Flu in Asia.
Many of our students choose an area of investigation closely aligned with their chosen university courses; giving them both a taste of the applicability of mathematics to their area of study and also providing an excellent way of enhancing their CV for university applications.
With a goal for mathematical creativity in mind at BISP we have recently launched our Global Maths Classroom initiative – bringing together our online resources to share with students and teachers across the world.
Central to this is our IB Maths Resources website which contains hundreds of articles and posts with ideas for mathematical investigations. As well as video tutorials and teacher resource downloads our IB Maths Resources also includes a dedicated code breaking website. By cracking codes, children compete from around the world in order to join the 15,000 students currently on our leaderboard.
There is a close relationship between mathematics, code breaking and computer cryptography, with many talented mathematicians going into careers in this field, so this is an excellent opportunity for students to see a creative real world application of the subject they study in school.
As well as the growing use of Mathematics in computing, the subject has long enjoyed close links with Physics and Engineering. STEM clubs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) aim to provide cross-curricular activities which draw on students’ skills in the various disciplines. At BISP students have worked together to undertake such varied projects as hovercraft construction, and plane and hydroponic plant designs.
Ultimately, by following “the poetry of logical ideas” of mathematical study, students are able to express their creativity at every opportunity.
The author of this article, Andrew Chambers, BA. MSc. PGCE. is a Maths Teacher at BISP.
The BISP IB Maths Resources for teachers and students can be found at: ibmathsresources.com