In recent weeks, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time working on the stemNRICH site with my colleague Steve Hewson. If you haven’t already seen stemNRICH, it’s a collection of mathematical science resources. In order to think about how teachers might use these problems in the classroom, I have had to sit down and solve them for myself, and this has caused me to reflect a lot on my own experiences studying maths and sciences at school.

For a start, I have had to refresh my very rusty knowledge for a lot of these problems – although I am the youngest member of the NRICH team it is already ten years since I did A Level physics (where does the time go?) But on top of that, these problems are not at all what I remember doing as a sixth former – the problems Steve has created for stemNRICH are much more open and lend themselves to discussion. Many of them require some intuition and consideration of real-world application of the mathematics in order to find a route to a solution, and to start with, the problems took me out of my comfort zone.

But the more I worked through them, the more I found myself wishing that there had been more resources like this available when I was at school. I was being challenged to put my mathematics into context, which would have been the perfect preparation for university-level applied maths. I hope that the Teachers’ Notes I have written to accompany some of Steve’s problems will aid teachers who wish to use these resources in the classroom, because I feel they’ll really help aspiring mathematicians, scientists and engineers to think about the applications of mathematics and gain some intuition about how maths works in the Real World!