27 April 2016
In April, three undergraduate students from the department led a masterclass day for a group of mathematically gifted pupils from schools in South Cumbria.

The event took place at Dallam School's Heversham site and involved 115 pupils from six schools from South Cumbria: Appleby Grammar School, Dallam School, Kirkbie Kendal School, Kirkby Stephen Grammar School, Queen Katherine School and Settlebeck School. The pupils were selected from years 7, 8 and 9 as being among the best in their year in mathematics.

The pupils were introduced to three topics, each led by one of the students. The first was an introduction to complex numbers, including a game of complex battleships. As the pupils heard, complex numbers are used throughout physics and engineering, as well as being fundamental in pure mathematics.

The second involved the pupils playing the mathematical games "Brussel Sprouts" and "Nim" and trying to work out if there were winning strategies. This area of mathematics, game theory, has applications in economics and behavioural science.

In the last session, the pupils built tensegrity structures. These are made from wooden rods and elastic bands and keep their shapes due to the tension in the bands. They have applications to biomechanics and even space science, as they allow scientists to build equipment that folds flat for launch but assembles itself into a given 3D shape at its destination.

The undergraduate students were all third year students who had taken the department's Mathematics Education modules, aimed at those who are considering a career in teaching.

Mr Rob Blyth, coordinator for Gifted & Talented pupil activities for this group of schools, said "This was a magnificent event. The University pitched the level just right to stretch the Year 7 to 9 students while still making the maths accessible. The feedback from students has been great. Many said it opened new areas of maths to them and made maths relevant to the real world. The most frequent comment I have heard from students is, 'that was one of the best G&T events we have been to'."

Dr Jan Grabowski, Outreach Officer for the department, said "We were very pleased to be invited to be involved with this event. Our students did a fantastic job, developing and leading the sessions themselves, and were fully deserving of the positive feedback from the pupils."