Sharing the joy of mathematics

Dr Toen Castle and Dr Michael Payne are sharing the joy of mathematics with secondary students in regional Victoria

Dr Toen Castle and Dr Michael Payne are sharing the joy of mathematics with secondary students in regional Victoria.

Their outreach program – run from the regions and for the regions – includes visits to secondary schools in Bendigo, Shepparton and Horsham, and a fortnightly after-school extension program based at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus.

Mathematical puzzles, covering topics from geometry through to finance, form the core of the program, helping students to build their knowledge and appreciation of the field.

“We enable students to explore how mathematics connects with and represents reality,” says Payne. “Instead of rote learning, students can dig deep, grapple with the problem, understand it, and find out how the concepts they learn in the classroom relate to the real world.”

Interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has declined in schools, and students in regional areas can face additional hurdles to their metropolitan counterparts when pursuing STEM study.

“I grew up in the country where the perception of mathematics could be quite negative,” explains Castle. “It was through outreach programs that I connected with mathematicians who were passionate about the discipline. It is where I discovered my love of mathematics and the satisfaction that comes with solving problems.”

Castle and Payne’s outreach programs have been very successful, with students reporting that they had fun while also being challenged.

“At its core, outreach is about sharing the joy of mathematics,” adds Castle “It’s exciting to lead a program where regional secondary students can experience mathematics in a different way.”

“I love to see students puzzling their way through a problem to emerge with a solution at the other side.”

For more information, and to access the problem sheets, visit their website.

Find out more about studying mathematics and statistics, and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, on our website.