A new online maths course has the potential to give people throughout the UK much-needed skills to solve day-to-day problems in the home, at work and in school or college.
One in three adults in the UK, miss out on the power of mathematics to solve problems in everyday life and work, even though they understand the basics of numeracy. But that could change with the introduction of Citizen Maths – using a model of online learning already employed with success to help hundreds of thousands of people across the world to learn computer science.
For huge numbers of adults, a face-to-face course is not an option: the cost of providing tutored courses on the scale needed is prohibitive; even if the money was available, there isn’t the capacity in the system to provide such courses; and for many adults their work and social lives are too varied to make attending a regular face-to-face course feasible.
Citizen Maths is open for registrations now at http://citizenmaths.com/ and will launch officially on 12 September as a free, open online course, funded by the Ufi Charitable Trust, and developed by Calderdale College, with CogBooks, maths education researchers from the University of London Institute of Education, and the awarding body OCR. It has gained advice along the way from Google, on whose platform Citizen Maths relies.
The course is primarily aimed at adults who want to improve their grasp of maths, said Seb Schmoller, who directs the project for Calderdale College. “The course has been made with independent self-motivated learners in mind: that is, people who are not enrolled on a formal course and who have decided to improve their maths.”
However, the development team also identified a far wider group who would also benefit, including teachers, tutors or trainers who would find that Citizen Maths is a useful adjunct to their own work. They should give their students active encouragement to use Citizen Maths too, he said.
“It may also be that parents of school-aged children decide to use Citizen Maths to develop their own maths so that they can help their children. And we know that people involved in mathematics education or in online learning are already signing up for Citizen Maths simply to ‘check it out’. That is fine by us.”
Part of the vision of such courses was that they should be free and open to all. Such an approach to learning this kind of maths had never been tried before, so it made sense to use a model that has already been tried and tested in the teaching of computer science, said Schmoller.
“We’ve adapted that model to help people learn maths at an intermediate level. The course videos give you a feeling of having a one-to-one lesson with a helpful teacher. Online apps allow you to try out new ideas through hands-on activities. At any point you can discuss what you are learning, and share problems and solutions with other like-minded learners.”
Citizen Maths is open for registrations now at http://citizenmaths.com/. It is based around powerful ideas in mathematics, the first of which is the idea of “proportion” – the subject matter of the course that will go live on 12 September.
Professor Dave Pratt, from the Institute of Education, explained: “Proportion matters because it sits behind so many aspects of every-day maths, for example when you are sharing out costs, or altering a mixture, comparing amounts, or scaling something up or down. It is fundamental to being able to understand and solve a wide range of problems.”
The course on offer from September should take between 5-10 hours to complete, spread over a few days, or a few weeks. Further course sections, covering other powerful ideas in mathematics, are due to be produced by the team in 2015, once the impact of the current course has been assessed.
Commenting on the launch, Rebecca Garrod-Waters, CEO of funder the Ufi Charitable Trust said: “The Trust’s major aim is to scale up the use of technology-based learning. Citizen Maths has tremendous potential to help us meet this aim, and to contribute to the broader challenge of helping self-motivated people improve their grasp of maths.” Mike Ellicock, CEO of the independent charity National Numeracy, said: “I’m excited about the launch of Citizen Maths; it fits really well with the National Numeracy Challenge and I hope that together we can start to help the 78% of adults who are currently working below Level 2.”
Meanwhile, Chris Jones, Principal and Chief Executive of Calderdale College, commented: “We know that there are many in the UK who need and want to improve their maths skills, and for whom enrolling on a face-to-face course is not practicable. That’s who Citizen Maths is for.”