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Features: Faculty Insights


Keen-eared listeners to BBC Radio 4's flagship 'Today' programme will have spotted that the popular 'Puzzle for Today' slot features a collaboration with the NRICH project, part of the Faculty's extensive mathematics education outreach activity.

NRICH is the largest programme within the Millennium Mathematics Project, a pioneering outreach and mathematics education collaboration between the Faculties of Mathematics and Education, directed by the cosmologist and noted science communicator John Barrow, Professor of Mathematical Sciences in DAMTP. The MMP's family of programmes includes the very successful NRICH and Plus websites, and has won awards including the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, recognising ‘outstanding achievement and excellence’ at world-class level. The innovative free online resources produced under the MMP umbrella reach more than 7.5 million users worldwide, and the project works face-to-face with thousands of school students and teachers each year.

The project's NRICH programme focuses on supporting and enriching mathematics education in schools. The NRICH website publishes free mathematics education resources designed to challenge, inspire and engage ages 3 to 19, including support for teachers and parents. The resources on the site cover all stages of school education, from early years (ages 3 to 5), primary (ages 5 to 11) and secondary (ages 11 to 18), right through to support for students’ transition from A-level to university. Students are invited to submit solutions to ‘live’ problems on the site, with featured solutions published online.

Developing mathematical thinking

NRICH's rich, engaging resources are designed to develop mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills. For the puzzles featured on Today, the MMP team have adapted selected problems which are carefully chosen to give rewarding opportunities for strategic thinking and reasoning, but are very accessible in terms of the mathematical knowledge and techniques required to tackle them, to appeal to the widest possible audience. The 'Puzzle for Today' activities include edited extracts from some of the thousands of rich low-threshold high-ceiling NRICH problems, as well as adaptations of some of NRICH's extensive collection of short problems published in collaboration with the UKMT, based on UKMT challenge questions.

While NRICH is already highly successful, reaching a huge audience of teachers and students worldwide (in the last school year the site attracted 5.5 million users), the collaboration with Today is an engaging way to raise the profile of the project even further with a new audience of all ages. "The feedback so far has been fantastic," says Ems Lord, the NRICH Programme Director. "Listeners have been incredibly engaged with the NRICH puzzles, and keen to share their solutions with the NRICH team."

You can sample one of the broadcast 'Puzzles for Today', adapted from the NRICH/UKMT short problems collection, below:

In the Footprints Cafe each table has three legs, each chair has four legs and all the customers and the three members of staff have two legs each. There are four chairs at each table. At 5pm, three-quarters of the chairs are occupied by customers and there are 206 legs altogether in the cafe.

How many chairs does the cafe have?


Learn more about the Faculty's mathematics outreach and education initiatives here. For regular news and updates you can follow the Millennium Mathematics Project on Twitter. NRICH's mathematics education resources for schools are freely accessible online, and you can also subscribe to the new NRICH Parent email newsletter.

If you are interested in supporting the work of the MMP's NRICH project, you can find out more here.