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School of Mathematics

School of Mathematics

Blog for the School of Mathematics community

Meet the Outreach Team: Guadiana Gonçalves

My name is Guadiana Gonçalves, I come from a Portuguese-Brazilian family but I have lived in France my whole life, and I am currently in my third year of studying for an integrated Masters in Mathematics. As well as Mathematics, I love: cinema, music, reading, football, and languages. I’m involved in a few university societies such as Tandem Language Cafés, but mainly I have been volunteering for the Maths Outreach Team for a year and a half.

I’ve always loved maths and growing up I especially liked Algebra. During my time at university, I am able to enjoy more specific fields and I found my favourites so far to be Number Theory and Graph Theory. I also found that I really like Computer Science and I’m currently exploring my interests in Computer Security and Algorithms.

When I first heard about the Maths Outreach Team, I was immediately interested in getting involved. I tutored a few friends in high school and I loved seeing that it was much easier for them to understand a topic when it wasn’t explained in the conventional “school way”. The Maths Outreach Team is exactly like that: we create and present activities to people of all ages to show that maths can be fun and that there is maths in some parts of life you might not have thought of. I also love working with children and this tends to be the target audience for most of our events.

Some of our events include the Maths Circles and the Edinburgh Science Festival. I loved participating in both activities during my first year of volunteering, but I had a slight preference for the Maths Circles: I loved sitting down with a child and their parent(s) and try to walk through a puzzle they were struggling with. Seeing the smile on children’s faces when they finally figure out that problem that seemed so hard at first made me realise I wanted to become even more involved with the Maths Circles. So, I applied to become the Maths Circles Leader and I have been supervising the online and in-person versions since September 2023!

My favourite Outreach event is definitely the Maths Circles, but I absolutely love the more one-off opportunities, including a visit to a primary school. I presented my puzzle to the children, and they interacted with it so much faster than I thought they would. Thankfully, I had planned some extra puzzles that managed to fill up my time slot, but I love always getting surprised at how smart children are. On top of them being interested in what I was saying, they were very sweet and kept coming to ask me questions and show me their drawings and their lock screens on their tablets. It was genuinely such a wholesome experience that I couldn’t have been a part of if it weren’t for the Maths Outreach Team.

Our main motto at Maths Outreach is that it’s not all about getting the right answer! We always try to focus on working through the problem, understanding what went wrong when the answer isn’t fully working, and learning from our mistakes. Many students come with this preconceived idea of maths where there’s only one way to get to the answer and if they don’t get it on their first try, they’re bad at maths. Here, we try to show students everyone can be “good” at maths. We focus much more on resiliency, self-confidence, and creativity rather than getting the right answer.

As the attendees usually expect us to know the answer to every single maths problem, I have also had to get much better at thinking on my feet! It’s okay to tell them you don’t know either; it’s always great to work through the problem together. I have to admit I have had some slightly embarrassing moments when a 7-year-old had to tell to me the path to my solution didn’t work because of a detail in the problem I hadn’t noticed!

Participating in events helps you gain so many skills. Personally, I have improved my planning and organising skills as well as my oral presentation skills. We’re always keen to have more volunteers, so if you are enthusiastic about maths and what I described sounds like something you’d like to do, please do consider joining the team.



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