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Inspiring Mathematical Thinking
By Elizabeth Jewitt and the Middle School Mathematics Department

Mid-September saw the first of what we hope will become an annual Middle School event at ISZL. Carrying the title ‘Inspiring Mathematical Thinking’, the three-day programme focused the students’ minds on a wide variety of mathematical ideas, ranging from the mathematical methods underlying card tricks to analysing the surprising properties of various Möbius strip creations, from constructing dodecahedrons through paper folding to exploring the fascinating world of unsolved problems.

Dr Katie Steckles gave the main presentations and workshops over the event. When not writing books, or travelling as a presenter, Katie works with ‘Think Maths’, a team of experienced mathematics speakers from the UK who visit schools to run workshops and give talks.

The programme began with the Grade 6 presentation, ‘Shapes and Smoke Rings’, briefly touching on Euclidean geometry as they considered the properties of three-dimensional shapes and watched in awe as a smoke torus flew over their heads, across the theatre. Students then gathered in smaller groups for workshops where they were challenged to solve problems in teams. 

In their sessions with Katie Steckles, Grade 8 students considered some surprising mathematics conjectures and unsolved problems. We now challenge one of them to find that pancake number for 20 pancakes one day…it’s somehow amazing that we don’t yet know! In addition, Grade 8 students had their thinking challenged by Dr Kaloyan Slavov of the E.T.H. Zurich Mathematics Youth Academy. His two talks focused on the mathematical analysis of game strategies and investigation into complex patterns.

We hope the experience has helped Middle Schoolers to use their creativity to explore and enjoy mathematics confidently. Thank you to the Fund for Excellence for making this exceptional learning experience possible.

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