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O.R. in Schools

‘O.R. in Schools’ is one of the OR Society’s active publicity programmes and it is aimed at promoting O.R. to young people and their teachers.

After 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. The Taskforce gave themselves the stretch goal of “every school child knows what O.R. is”. 

The O.R. in Schools Taskforce created 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. 

Teachers also have the opportunity to request school visits from the Society’s members. Having an O.R. professional as a visitor in the classroom can enthuse and motivate the students.  A common reaction after school visits is that many of the pupils seem surprised that maths could be used in the ‘real world’ and that it was not just Maths teachers that could do maths.  The school visits are really important for taking this message to young people and so one of the plans for development is to increase the number of visits to both schools and other educational events (e.g. Further Mathematics Support Programme’s Maths at Work conferences).  These visits rely on the Society’s members volunteering and so to support them additional resources have been made available on the Volunteers page.  The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Ambassadors programme (www.stemnet.org.uk/content/ambassadors) also offers support to those going into schools, the induction course provided is great for preparing volunteers for working with young people.

School visits alone do not have the ability to reach as many students as a teacher does. The key will be to inform teachers so they can pass the message on to the students.  Teacher training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) provide an excellent opportunity to promote the use of O.R. techniques in the classroom as enrichment activities to complement the curriculum. Providing teachers with knowledge and classroom resources will allow them to demonstrate the real-life applications of the subjects that the students are learning and provide some perspective.    The ultimate success factor would be to have O.R. in the curriculum.

Click here to read an article about the Society working with a local school to promote O.R. and its links with maths.

The Taskforce are constantly striving to update the promotion material and finding new ways of raising awareness of O.R.  They meet about 3 times a year to review progress, help sort any issues and come up with new ideas or contacts that can help with future plans. If you would like to find out more or get involved in any way then please contact the Society’s Education Officer, Louise Orpin (louise.orpin@theorsociety.com).