11 May 2015


I admit to knowing very little about how school finances work. Some schools have hundreds of iPads, others have leaking roofs. It's all a mystery to me. Due to budgetary constraints I've only been on one maths school trip in the last five years. This leads me to wonder how important enrichment is, and what schools can do when money is tight.

Why enrichment?
When I was a teenager I did nothing in maths beyond what was needed to pass my exams. Apart from a couple of maths competitions, my school did not 'enrich' our mathematics education. I liked maths because I was good at it - maths lessons were my comfort zone. I enjoyed the satisfaction of solving problems but I had no interest in mathematics outside the classroom. I expect that many of my current students feel the same way.

Maths In Action
A couple of years ago I accompanied a group of twenty Year 12 students to a day of Maths in Action lectures. I saw amazing speakers including Simon Singh and Hannah Fry. I'm convinced that this trip made me a better maths teacher. Not only did I learn loads of cool new stuff to share with my students, I also gained a new enthusiasm for mathematics. I'm sure at least some of my Year 12 students must have felt inspired too. Perhaps they went on to study maths at university as a result.

Education is all about making students more knowledgeable, so we should share mathematics in all its glory - not just the content of the exam syllabus. I've written about these ideas before in my post Off on a Tangent. We must give our students opportunities to appreciate the wonders of mathematics.

There are loads of brilliant places for mathematical school tripsBletchley Park is a wonderful example. The Mathematics Gallery at the Science Museum is due to become the world's foremost mathematics gallery after a recent £5 million donation, so will no doubt become an outstanding destination for school trips. The MathsWorldUK project is also exciting. Maths Inspiration events are brilliant. Sometimes though it's not practical or affordable to take students out on trips. Bringing speakers into school is a good alternative.
A view of the new Mathematics Gallery
In-School Speakers
A while ago I asked Twitter about maths speakers and I was very grateful to receive dozens of useful replies. I've listed a selection of speakers below. Costs are typically in the region £200 - £600.
Kjartan Poskitt

Kjartan Poskitt, author of Murderous Maths, comes highly recommended. Talks include 'Isaac Newton and his Falling Apple' and 'Mayhem with Maths and Music'. In his Murderous Maths sessions he performs a variety of features from his Murderous Maths books including flexagons, magic squares, strange number facts, knots, tricks, amazing number predictions and so on. Full details are available on his website.

Matt Parker (@standupmaths) runs Think Maths, a group of fantastic speakers who visit schools to perform maths talks and workshops for all ages and abilities. Topics range from topology, number theory and probability to magic and maths in popular culture.

James Grime (@jamesgrime) travels extensively giving public talks all over the world. Details of fees and workshops are available on his website. For example 'The Enigma Project' is a presentation about the history and mathematics of codes and code breaking including a demonstration of an original WWII Enigma Machine, followed by code breaking workshops. It's suitable for pupils of all ages and abilities from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 5.
Bletchley Park (@BletchleyParkGB) offers 'Enigma Outreach' in which they bring a genuine, working Enigma machine to your school. Visits are built around the demonstration of this iconic piece of World War II history, and can also include presentations on the history of Bletchley Park, interactive talks on codes and ciphers, and hands on codebreaking workshops. Full details and fees are available here.

Colin Beveridge (@icecolbeveridge) offers 'Games, Goats and Gold' which uses popular game shows to demonstrate that thinking clearly about probability isn’t just good for your exams, but has applications in the slightly-more-real but just as arbitrary world of prime time TV. The workshop is aimed at bright Year 9 students, but can be adapted for most secondary school groups. Details of this talk and others are available on Flying Colours Maths.

Colin Wright (@ColinTheMathmo) comes highly recommended. He offers a collection of talks and workshops that range from ages 13 and onwards. One of his most popular talks, 'Juggling: Theory and Practice' is about the mathematics of juggling. Further information about his range of talks is available on his website.
Colin Wright
Dr Matt Pritchard (@ScienceMagician) is an award-winning magician, comedian and creative communicator. He delivers talks in schools on both maths and science topics. His maths talks include 'Magical Maths' and 'The Man Who Cannot Lose'. He also has a session aimed at D1 students - 'From Facebook Friends to Postman Pat'. Full details are available on his website.

Rob Eastaway (@robeastaway) is the author of a number of mathematical books and the Director of Maths Inspiration, a national programme of interactive lecture shows. He offers a fantastic selection of in-school talks including 'What's the point of maths?', 'When Maths Meets Psychology', 'Maths on the Back of an Envelope' and 'From Pepsi to Peace Deals'. Many of his talks are suitable for Sixth Form students. See his website for more information.

Ben Sparks (@SparksMaths) works part-time with the Further Maths Support Programme as a speaker, tutor and co-ordinator, and part-time as a freelance maths enrichment speaker around the UK – including with Maths Inspiration. His talks, including 'The Creation of Number' and 'Pretty Irrational' are listed on his website

Puzzle Days and Workshops
If you have a good set of resources then you may be able to run puzzle workshops yourself (FunMaths Roadshow materials are only £27). Alternatively, there are companies who can come to your school to run workshops for you - here are some examples:

The 7puzzle Company (@7puzzle) delivers fun and effective maths workshops in both primary and secondary schools all over the UK. The games played not only challenge children’s number skills, but also act as a confidence-builder. They contain strategy, logic, shape and space, memory and visual aspects as well as helping children to focus on the social etiquette of communicating, listening, turn-taking, sharing and team-working while participating in the activities. Further information about the 7puzzle experience is available here.
The 7puzzle experience

MMP Hands-On Maths Roadshow (@mathsroadshow). The NRICH Hands-On Maths Roadshow is a collection of hands-on mathematical puzzles, games and activities that can be brought to schools for a special maths event. Roadshow activities are designed to promote creative approaches to mathematics and strategic thinking and to stimulate mathematical curiosity. The Roadshow can be tailored to suit various age ranges, from Key Stage 1 to 4. The fee is £595 for a full day and £415 for a half day - full details are available here.

The Problem Solving Company (@problemsolveit) offers fun filled days of hands-on maths challenges to students from Early Years to KS3. Their maths puzzle days promote thinking, logical reasoning and mathematical understanding with an emphasis on teamwork and discussion. They also run Year 6/7 Transition Days and Sixth Form Team Building Days. Further information and prices are available here.
The Problem Solving Company
Happy Puzzle Company (@happypuzzle) also runs Puzzle Challenge Days for Schools - click here for details.

Maths competitions - local and national - are another great source of enrichment, though they often involve only a handful of high-attainers. It's worth offering opportunities to whole year groups too.

Affordable enrichment
Don't forget that your nearest Maths Hub might run enrichment events. For example the Surrey Plus Maths Hub runs Inspiration Days (featuring speakers such as Matt Parker) that students can attend for free - spaces are available on a first come, first served basis.

Look out for grant schemes too - your school could receive financial assistance to run maths enrichment events.

This post by no means represents an exhaustive list of speakers and workshops. If you're looking for enrichment opportunities then you'll find a plethora of providers in the STEM Directories. If you have any recommendations from personal experience then please comment below.


  1. Thanks for this post. I agree that bringing in outside speakers can help students to connect what they do in the classroom to the outside world and can help to nurture their curiosity - as well as open their minds to the possibilities of how math is used by real people. As you say, our classes too often focus on covering required curriculum in preparation for exams, and it is sometimes tough for students to see past this. The enrichment opportunities you suggest can give high achievers as well as others ideas about how math exists in the world.

    Of note: the listed names on your (excellent) suggestions for classroom speakers are all male. While I am not tuned into speakers in the UK, I would guess that the groups would include some female speakers as well, but I think that it is worth being deliberate about highlighting female math role models. Hannah Fry or Vi Hart might do classroom workshops in the UK - I'm sure that there are many others.

    Thanks again. I hope to take your advice for my classroom next year!

    1. Hi! Thanks for your comment. Gender didn't occur to me when I compiled this list but you've made a good point. Female students should have access to inspirational female role models. I should have specifically mentioned the awesome Katie Steckles (www.katiesteckles.co.uk) - she is a mathematician who, amongst other things, speaks in schools as part of Think Maths.

  2. Thanks to @mairi_walker for making me aware that the London Mathematical Society also offers grants under the 'Small Grants for Education' scheme. http://www.lms.ac.uk/grants/small-grants-education

  3. Since writing this post a year ago, lots of helpful people have pointed me in the direction of additional enrichment opportunities including:

    The LMS Holgate Workshops

    The PLYT Challenge

  4. The FMSP's enrichment listings are here