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O.R. in Schools - What is it?

O.R. in Schools (ORiS)

What’s it all about?

The OR Society is the professional body and oldest learned society for operational researchers.

Within The OR Society, we’ve got different areas and it’s the education part who run the OR in Schools (ORiS) project and liaise with teachers, lectures and educators. We promote operational research (OR) in education to raise awareness of the importance of its real world applications and highlight potential careers in the field of study. We do this by visiting schools, colleges and universities, attending careers fairs, running interactive workshops and giving presentations on recent projects.


If you’re interested in getting involved – either as a volunteer, teacher or lecturer, click on the relevant link to the left of the page.

What’s the goal?

At this point, you might be wondering what operational research (O.R.) is. In a nutshell, it’s the discipline of applying advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions. By using techniques such as problem structuring methods (sometimes known as 'Soft O.R.') and mathematical modelling to analyse complex situations, O.R. gives executives the power to make more effective decisions and build more productive systems based on:

  • More complete data
  • Consideration of all available options
  • Careful predictions of outcomes and estimates of risk
  • The latest decision tools and techniques

A review on the future of O.R. education highlighted a lack of awareness of O.R. in schools, the Society created the O.R. in Schools Taskforce. They gave themselves the stretch goal of “every school child knows what O.R. is” and created resources to support this. The first was the LearnAboutOR website (www.LearnAboutOR.co.uk) which contains information about what O.R. is and where it can be applied, a teaching resource based on the A-Level Decision Maths modules, university course and careers information, and a short film and booklet about O.R.

The website was initially promoted through mailings, that included the ‘What is O.R.?’ DVD, to the heads of maths of all U.K. schools and colleges in September 2009.  A second wave of promotion saw the website advertised in maths teaching magazines in September 2010. The campaign to promote O.R. and the ‘LearnAboutOR’ website is also being taken to maths teachers through information leaflets distributed at training courses for teaching A-level maths and at teacher conferences, through links to the website on other maths teaching and careers websites, and through careers fairs. Positive feedback has been received for both the website in general and the teaching resource.

Is this a recent thing?

No! Whilst the society has been going for over 60 years, the OR in Schools outreach work has only been happening for the last 10 years. It started with a volunteer, followed by a part-time member of staff (to support the programme) and most recently it had two full time staff members running the project. We’re going from strength to strength thanks to the wonderful support of our volunteers and members up and down the country who get involved to engage and inspire the next generation.

Most recently we’ve been refining and updating the materials we offer, to ensure both volunteers and teachers get the best experience. We’re thrilled to say the results are paying off and this year you’ll see standardised booking forms for free school visits and interactive workshops, along with updated and enhanced materials – all available to download free of charge (https://www.tes.com/member/TheORSociety)

Have a look at the information on the following pages and if you’ve any questions, please do get in touch! Tweets us (@ORinSchools) or drop us an email: schools@theorsociety.com