Title of Project: Math in the Community

Year of Competition: 2018

Grant amount: $950

Project Duration: Single Year

Type of Report: Final

Period Covered: October 2018 to May 2019

Description of Activity:
Using the CMS Endowment Grant, the Mathematics Outreach Office at the University of Toronto hosted Mathematics School Visits through the Math in the Community Program between October 2018 and May 2019. Throughout the school year, there were twelve visits attended by over 350 students in grades one to twelve. Ten workshops were presented (two presented twice) featuring different mathematical concepts ranging from game theory and probability to proofs and coding. Students were engaged in learning mathematics in a new way and encouraged to see potential in pursuing careers related to the field. Thus, the goals of the program were achieved.

Please note that while our application outlined the Count Me In program as an additional program to be funded through this grant, because we were granted 38% of the requested amount, the entirety of our CMS Endowment Grant was directed towards the school visits program.

Assessment of Effectiveness:
The Mathematics School Visits program offered students from across the GTA the opportunity to experience a uniquely immersive experience in institutions of academic mathematics at the University of Toronto and in particular the Fields Institute. Whenever possible, workshops are held in the Fields Institute so that students can see up close an entire building and institution devoted to current investigations in mathematics and appreciate the mathematical models and artworks that enliven the space.

The hands-on, interactive workshop sessions were designed and led by faculty members, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and other members of the Mathematics Department. The topics and materials were pre-arranged with teachers to target the strand of math being covered in school at the time and the mathematical ability of the students. This arrangement between teachers and presenters optimized students’ experience at the university. The main benefits of the program are that school-aged students are exposed to mathematics as an intriguing and beautiful subject and learn that it is a living area of scientific research.

On top of learning mathematical concepts, it provides an opportunity for students to experience the university’s rich culture and history. Most of the sessions held at the Fields Institute ended with an explanation of the 120-sided 4D shadow hanging from the ceiling of the Institute, which was inevitably met with ‘oohs’ and ‘awes’ from the students in attendance.

Future Plans (if any):
The outreach office will continue hosting school visits for the academic year of 2019/2020. The program will be assessed and evaluated based on post-visit surveys sent to the teachers and workshop presenters in order to improve the learning experience and strengthen the relationship between pre-university students and the Department of Mathematics.

In the next few months, we will continue expanding our school visit program in order to reach to more schools in underrepresented communities. We have recruited volunteer presenters who expressed an interest in leading workshops with newly constructed ideas to engage students and foster an interest and curiosity in learning Mathematics. We are also working to pilot a program where we send volunteers into schools to lead similar workshops. The purpose of this program would be make our unique hands-on math workshops available to schools in under-served communities that do not have the funds to come to us.

Financial:
In additional to the $950 from the CMS, we also received funding from the Fields Institute’s Outreach Activities Grant. The support provided by CMS Endowment Grant for this program was partly used towards the salary of the program coordinator who oversaw all aspects of the visits such as corresponding with organizing teachers, booking space, finding engaging speakers and workshop leaders, and managing curriculum. The funding also provided for materials used in the workshop sessions.

Without the support of CMS, this program would not have been possible and over 350 students wouldn’t have had the chance to experience a world of mathematics previously unknown to them.

Contact Name: Jeremy Quastel

[September 27, 2019]