MMP Project ‘Supporting Statistics in Schools’ – Interim Progress Report

Apr 27, 2018
The PSI is co-ordinating cross-industry support from Amgen, AstraZeneca, GSK, PHASTAR and Roche for a project by the Millennium Mathematics Project at the University of Cambridge, developing and publishing mathematics education resources to support and enhance the teaching of statistics at GCSE and A-Level.

The Millennium Mathematics Project (maths.org) is an award-winning outreach and education collaboration between the Faculties of Mathematics and Education at the University of Cambridge. The project consists of a family of complementary programmes, including our very successful NRICH and Plus websites. The collaboration with the PSI will produce a pilot module of freely accessible rich statistical education material to be published on our NRICH website (nrich.maths.org), openly available to all schools.

The collaboration was announced with the publication of an article in SPIN magazine in November 2017, outlining the scope of the project and highlighting the contribution of industry sponsors. Work on initial content planning started early in 2018 and the development framework is in place. The funding co-ordinated by PSI-CALC has also enabled us to recruit and appoint an additional very experienced staff member who has joined the existing NRICH team part-time for 6 months from April 2018, to help with resource development.

As highlighted in the SPIN article, this project is timely and addresses a real need in schools. The mathematics curriculum has changed significantly, with increased statistics content at both GCSE and A-Level.  Statistics is now a core component of the new Mathematics A-Level, which schools began teaching in September 2017, and an important component of other science A-Levels too. However, statistics is an area where teachers – especially non-specialists teaching mathematical content - may lack confidence, and where schools are actively looking for engaging, high-quality resources that are tailored to the scope of the new curriculum.

The pilot module will include resources for GCSE and A-Level addressing the following important statistical themes in the new mathematics curriculum: statistical sampling, interpreting and presenting data, distributions and hypothesis testing. The module aims to provide mathematics teachers with a pilot suite of effective, well-structured, engaging resources to help them introduce their students to statistics, and encourage students to explore and deepen their understanding.

The pilot NRICH resources will be accompanied by substantial teacher guidance and support material, designed to be accessible by both experienced and non-specialist mathematics teachers. Teacher notes include detailed suggestions for methods of introducing the activities in the classroom, with downloadable resources where required, and advice on key concepts and questions to explore.

An accompanying article on Plus (plus.maths.org), our online mathematics magazine, linked from the module, will explore applications of statistics in the pharmaceutical industry. The aim is to give a real-world example of the relevance and impact of the subject, and where the mathematics that students first encounter in the classroom can lead. We would welcome involvement from project partners: the Plus editors will liaise with the PSI-CALC co-ordinator for the project, James Lay-Flurrie, to discuss input and potential interviewees.

We are currently on track for our planned target publication date for the module resources of September 2018, ready for the beginning of the new 2018/19 school year. We aim to publish an interim first tranche of module material in July 2018, with the final resources published by September 2018. The new pilot module resources will be highlighted on the NRICH website to our large established audience, and will be publicised in our September NRICH teacher email newsletter and via our social media channels.