Ameerah’s Take – BDAT Schools Maths Challenge

04/04/2018

Over the past couple of weeks the team at The Linking Network have been delighted to facilitate a maths challenge for students from the Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust (BDAT). The schools involved, Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College, Belle Vue Girls’ Academy, Immanuel College and Bradford Forster Academy, have all shown great teamwork and communication as they worked confidently together.

The idea to host a maths challenge came from one of our linking teacher’s, Katie Paine from Belle Vue Girls’ Academy. Katie told me how her idea ‘all stemmed from the BDAT schools last year having to take part in a shared assessment which felt like a comparison between the schools. As an academy chain, we should be working together, not in competition with each other. I was worried students from my school were only working with girls from the same background and felt that it would be good for them to interact with others, including boys, to develop collaborative skills through teamwork.’

Prior to the Maths Challenge itself, students from the four schools met at Kala Sangam, next to Bradford Cathedral, for an initial linking day full of engaging ice breakers and activities. This helped them to get to know each other before the challenge began. The activities included creating symbols in groups to represent the shared values of all four schools. As well as considering personal and shared identities, students also focussed on the meaning of ‘community’ and considered what makes up a community, and the different ones they are a part of.

The next time the students met was at Bradford Grammar School, who very kindly hosted the BDAT Maths Challenge in their main hall- a motivating and inspiring environment for students to work together in.

Led by Katie, the challenge was made up of four rounds, beginning with a group round and ending with a relay, where student’s ability to do quick thinking was really put to the test! From walking around and talking to the young people taking part, I got a real sense of excitement for the day. As well as ‘enjoying working with other people, seeing how they work and learning different strategies to figuring out maths’, students explained how ‘You feel like you’ve done something once you’ve completed the question- It’s a sense of achievement’.

Hannah Shillan, a maths teacher from Immanuel College added ‘I think it’s positive that students can be encouraged to mix in their different teams, having to show confidence in communication and maths skills. We tried to pick students that wouldn’t typically be involved, those who would benefit from this. It’s great to see them so engaged.’

It was brilliant to see teachers also getting involved with the day’s activities, as well as sixth form helpers from all schools, who offered help and support to students on challenging questions.

Rizwaan Malik from Buttershaw Business College told me how it was wonderful to see ‘maths playing a big part in giving students opportunities and boosting links between BDAT schools, which all have different intakes in terms of students. Today has been an excellent opportunity for Buttershaw students to interact with students from very different backgrounds, but who also live near them. It’s a non-pressured way to interact. Maths is something they all have in common; they can all work together to do the maths.’

At The Linking Network, this is exactly the kind of work we aim to facilitate and be a part of, creating opportunities for young people to work collaboratively in a learning environment whilst also exploring identity, celebrating diversity and promoting community. Meg from the team summed up the day really nicely as she said ‘we met Katie when she came on a linking planning meeting. When we heard her idea of connecting students through maths we thought it was a great plan. The idea of combining social skills, having a great time meeting new people and all within the context of maths is something we could really see working. It’s been a delight to work with the maths teachers from these four schools, who have all brought enthusiasm and flair.’