The following are examples of talks that I have done as conference plenaries - most often to secondary or primary maths teachers, but also to more general audiences.
Making it Safe to Make Mistakes
Problem-solving is rarely a smooth process. It usually involves naïve ideas, visits down blind alleys and often a complete misunderstanding of the problem. Bizarrely, these 'mistakes' often speed up the path to good solutions. Rob explores the importance of failure in creative problem solving, and at how teachers can create an environment in which the students feel it is safe to make mistakes.
What Can the Chinese Learn from Us?
It's said that when it comes to maths, the average 16-year-old from China is about two years ahead of their British counterpart. That's one reason why there's been a big initiative to bring over teachers from Shanghai to share their secrets. But it's not all one way traffic. When it comes to creativity, there's a lot to learn from the British approach, with our strong culture of games, investigations and puzzles. Rob shares a range of activities that are engaging while also reinforcing the 'mastery' of maths that is so important.
Ah, Aha and Haha - When maths Meets Creativity
For most people, the expression 'creative maths' sounds like a contradiction in terms. But real maths *is* creative - it's about discovery, serendipity and surprise. In this talk Rob gives some of his favourite examples, many of which can be used in the classroom. The content is tailored depending on whether it is for primary or secondary teachers.
Puzzles versus Maths Questions
Are puzzles and maths questions different? If so, how do you define a boundary between them? Does it matter anyway? With examples of good and not-so-good problems, Rob draws on his experience as an author and puzzle setter to explore how to make maths engaging to a wider audience.
Maths on the Back of an Envelope
The convenience and speed of calculators has led us to believe that a number is only right when it is quoted to several decimal places. But maths is not always about getting precisely the right answer - and often a rough answer can offer more insights. This is a talk about everday estimation and about Fermi questions - the art of working things out when you aren't given any data. From working out the chance of unusual coincidences, to a quick method for answering a vintage Who wants to be a Millionaire? question, Rob guides you through maths that can be done on the back of an envelope.
When will I ever need Pythagoras, Miss?
Teachers live in dread of questions of students asking 'When will I need this?'. In this session, Rob Eastaway focuses on the maths students are definitely going to need when they leave school - and some that might crop up when it's least expected. And that might even include Pythagoras.