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Machinam gets maths in context

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Making the connection between maths and the real world can be a bit of a leap but if there’s a group of people who know how to apply maths in real life situations it’s engineers; using formulae to solve practical problems is what they do.

From that premise Machinam, a start-up founded by three engineers, conceived the In Real Life (IRL) maths learning program which is pitched at Year 9 and 10 students.

Since kicking off last year the program has gained momentum and has so far been used by 19 schools in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

“IRL is really aimed at increasing the engagement of the students by allowing them to learn maths through real world concepts rather than the traditional approach of learning a formula and then regurgitating it for an exam.

“It’s really about learning through discovery and through the lens of different types of careers and real life situations which Year 9 and 10 students might find themselves in either now or in the future,” says co-founder Jillian Kenny.

The three founders originally came together by founding a program called Power of Engineering which provides Year 9 and 10 students with a hands on experience of the profession.

“One of the things we were seeing was that students were really engagedthroughout the day but the teachers were asking ‘how can we continue with this engagement after they leave?’,” Kenny says.

The result was the IRL program from Machinam.

“We started working with maths teachers as well as professionals from different areas to develop the resources. It’s scenario-based learning that is mapped to the curriculums for Year 9 and Year 10/10A.

“Students will sit down and open up a scenario online. One I’ve been working on recently involves a car that has just crashed into a coffee shop. Students take on the role of car crash investigator and they go through the process to determine whether the car crashed into the building by accident or whether it was intentional. Through this scenario, students learn about non-linear relationships.”

Kenny says that much of engineering is the application of maths and in putting the resources together the three founders, along with experienced maths teachers, thought about the maths curriculum and matched it with scenarios they had encountered in their professional lives.

“Once we identified the scenarios we interviewed people from the professions that each scenario touched on and fleshed out the ideas from there.”

Currently, for Year 9 there are 12 scenarios and for Year 10 and 10A there are 13. Depending on the student’s ability it’s expected they would spend two to five hours on each scenario.

Schools can either buy the course for the entire year level or for a selection of the cohort, like an extension class. It's designed for teachers to use in class but teachers can assign IRL for homework or use it as assessment as well.

Machinam is running a scholarship, funded by global engineering partner WorleyParsons, for the first time this year and has more in the pipeline.

Many offices of WorleyParsons operations continue to support local education programs that promote STEM themes, and often have a local focus on underrepresented groups such as those disadvantaged by society, indigenous and females.

Diversity in a workforce is a strategic opportunity as stated by WorleyParsons CEO Andrew Wood, who says “Every day, we see our organisation and people embrace diversity because of the inherent benefits it brings, not only to us and our clients and customers, but to society as a whole.  Diversity, not only of thought, but of the people who bring such creativity and new ways of thinking, is core to innovation and the growth of our business.”

“This scholarship was started because we don't want these resources to only be available to the schools who have the most money. We want to ensure that all students, irrespective of their postcode, have the opportunity to engage with maths. This scholarship is for regional and low socioeconomic schools,” Kenny says.

Winners of the $10,000 scholarship competition will receive:

  • Access to engaging, real-world maths scenarios for the duration of 2018
  • Licenses for up to 200 users (students and teachers in Year 9 and/or 10)
  • An embedded appreciation of the value of maths in the real world
  • Exposure to a broad range of STEM and maths-related careers
  • Full onboarding and teacher training provided by Machinam to ensure teachers and students get complete value from the scholarship.

To enter visit:

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