University of Leicester leads the way in European scheme to make science and mathematics more exciting for pupils

Posted by pt91 at Jul 04, 2011 10:22 AM |
University of Leicester is the only centre in England to have been chosen to participate in the EU-funded Fibonacci Project

Issued by University of Leiester Press Office on 4 July 2011

One of Britain’s top universities is helping teachers to pioneer exciting new methods of mathematics and science teaching in primary and secondary schools.

The University of Leicester is the only centre in England to have been chosen to participate in the EU-funded Fibonacci Project – a major European scheme aimed at encouraging relevant and practical learning.

The Fibonacci method brings together the teaching of mathematics and science through inquiry-based approaches that pupils will find relevant, interesting and engaging while at the same time demonstrating that the two subjects are naturally linked.

Academics at the university are working with 25 primary and secondary teachers from 12 schools on the scheme. In total, there are 36 partners in 21 European countries involved in the Project.

Professor Janet Ainley, Director of Leicester’s School of Education, said the project had two main goals: to raise standards in schools by improving teacher education and to raise the profile of mathematics and science among students.

“We work with teachers to look at how themes arising in the science curriculum can be developed in a cross-curricular way,” she said.

“It is based on teachers and pupils posing and exploring questions through investigation and practical approaches.”

A lesson using the Fibonacci method might, for example, focus on flight and the use of parachutes. Pupils can design parachutes, test which shapes are the safest and which fabric is the most effective.

“As well as science, there is a lot of maths going on with pupils looking at shapes, taking measurements and collecting and analysing data,” Professor Ainley explained. “It is real science and real mathematics, and very hands-on and relevant.”

Teachers involved in the project take part in five sessions during the year, with activities designed to give them lesson ideas which they can adapt for different age groups. They also share ideas and information on which are the most effective approaches.

Support is provided by academics from the University of Leicester, who visit them in schools and observe them working, and then report back on progress.

Matthew Law, who teaches Years 3 and 4 at Cossington CE Primary School, in Leicestershire, said: “The pupils love it because it demands of them to be inquisitive.

“They really enjoy all the data-handling, drawing charts and scatter graphs. It makes the process more meaningful for them and they see the relevance of what they are doing.

“Open-ended tasks also allow them to make learning their own. They decide in which direction to take the activity and it encourages them to become independent learners.

“It is also more fun for us to teach in this way.”

Prof Ainley added: “Fibonacci challenges us to explore the similarities and differences in our two disciplines; what inquiry might mean in each of them and how the strands of content from each might be brought together in a meaningful way.”

For more information, please contact:

Professor Janet Ainley on 0116 252 3690, janet.ainley@le.ac.uk

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