Scientists in Schools

Engineer measures up

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  • Belle Cook, O’Connor Cooperative School, Canberra, ACT
  • Dr David Lovell, CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics

Electrical engineer David Lovell has been working with students at O’Connor Cooperative School to extend their mathematical skills and knowledge.

Belle Cook had three students in her Year 2 class who were finding maths too easy. She registered for the Mathematicians in Schools program in order to find a mathematician who could help to challenge these students and provide the inspiration that comes with working with a real mathematician. Belle said “It’s so good having David come in to work with these kids, nurturing and extending their love of mathematics. They really enjoy working with him.”

David and Year 2 students working together
Dr David Lovell explaining results to students David has been visiting the school once a fortnight and working with the three students during their regular maths lesson. Belle and David choose the topics for him to cover and he designs activities for the extension group. Occasionally David works with the whole class. Topics have included decimals, area and graphing. David has even used the area of a rectangle to introduce the key idea of algebra—that letters can represent numbers.

So what do the students think? Max said he enjoyed geometry, learning about area and perimeter. Luka said he was interested in the algebra. In Jacob’s words “It’s really fun learning with David!”

David enjoys visiting the school and wishes he had enough time to go every week. “It’s really rewarding. They are like sponges, soaking up information."

During a recent visit, David worked with the whole class on a measurement and graphing project. The Year 2 class has been doing a unit on measurement so students weighed and measured each other. David helped them put the data in a spreadsheet and created a scatter plot of height vs. weight. Students also measured the length of their forearms so they had an extra set of data to work with. This lesson reinforced their understanding of measurement while introducing them to a new type of graph.

Measurements for the graph