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Developing computing tools to engage classroom mathematics with 21st century global challenges

A presentation from the STEM Annual Conference 2014.

Mitigating climate change securing sustainable energy for a growing population managing disease pandemics and feeding future generations are unprecedented global challenges facing society that will impact significantly on our lives and our children’s lives. UNESCO’s Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 initiative places Mathematics centre-stage in tackling these 21st century challenges. At the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus we are working with schools to explore this pivotal role for Mmathematics and to foster engagement of future mathematicians with these challenges. Our work spans from interactive classes for students aged 11-16 through workshops and research placements for students aged 16-18 to teaching undergraduates on our new interdisciplinary BSc Mathematics and the

Activities include using games to develop understanding of disease transmission and workshops exploring tipping points in iterative schemes to model climate systems. Whilst student engagement with us has been excellent a frequent constraint is "computing power" both in accessing relevant software and in how comfortable students are in using computers in their Mathematics lessons. We shall highlight some work of our early career researchers on relating school Mathematics with 21st century challenges. We will discuss recent work by Morgan Liebling-Davis (MMath project student) on developing spreadsheet-program based worksheets. An important component of Morgan’s project is to create interactive worksheets that use software readily available in schools such as Excel and Python. We hope that these easy-to-use computer-based worksheets will help to engage mathematical ideas and knowledge in schools with current and future challenges.

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