‘Maths gypsies’ to peddle unique brand of maths education in NT 

Michael Fellows and Fran Rosamond to tie big blue ropes in math knots

Labelled the “Maths Gypsies”, world-renowned mathematicians Michael Fellows and Fran Rosamond are in the Territory and have brought their unique brand of maths education to Charles Darwin University.

The high-achieving husband and wife team are famous for sharing maths ideas of computing with children, but without using any computers at all. Instead, they use gigantic knots, and networks made with coloured tape, and lots of hands-on activities. 

New to Darwin, the couple is offering workshops for teachers, parents and youngsters based on the innovative ideas of “Computer Science Unplugged!” written by Michael Fellows with New Zealand colleagues Tim Bell and Ian Witten. Professor Fellows was recently honoured with the 2012 ETH International Medal of Honour for his work in mathematics outreach and education, the highest possible honour in maths education circles world-wide.

“The activities are so self-contained that children understand what to do with very little instruction, even in countries where they do not speak the language, such as India or Norway,” Professor Fellows said.

“The book describes some important modern maths, including problems as yet having no solution. It has been translated into 14 languages and has spurred a global grass-roots movement.

“There are still so many problems out there that need solving in the field of mathematics,” Professor Fellows said. “Much of the maths taught in schools presents problems in a formulaic and closed way, that does not challenge students to imagine new ways of solving problems.”

CDU Professorial Research Fellow Frances Rosamond said that the “Unplugged” activities could be used in other subjects. “Teachers use the Sorting Network for ordering distances from planets to the sun (science), molecular weights or densities (chemistry), fractions (math), notes and scales (music), events (history), or priorities (social studies). The encryption activity can fit into a history session studying World War II,” Professor Rosamond said.

A workshop for secondary teachers on “Computer Science Unplugged” will be held at Charles Darwin University on Friday, 10 August. A workshop for schoolchildren will be offered in the last week of September.

An international workshop to explore “Unplugged Across the Curriculum" will take place in August 2013 at Charles Darwin University. 

For more information about any of the “Unplugged” workshops contact Asma Rehmankhan via email: asma.rehmankhan@cdu.edu.au or phone 8946 6828.