Learning Mathematics Through Teaching

Learning Mathematics Through Teaching

Learning Mathematics Through Teaching

Project Lead

Anca Mustata, School of Mathematical Sciences, UCC

The Teaching Challenge

Mathematics underpins technological and scientific developments -- hence the need for future mathematicians who can communicate well across disciplines and with the public. With this project, our aim was to engage students as partners in creating and communicating mathematics levels through implementation of investigative, research based teaching methods supporting vertical integration.

Within this project, students develop mathematics teaching skills through practice as tutors within the UCC Mathematics Enrichment programme - weekly classes that introduce school students to advanced mathematics in a practical and engaging way. They learn to integrate complex mathematical knowledge into hands-on activities and challenges. They developed leadership, team-work and research skills through research and teaching workshops within the Mathematics TY Work Experience Programme. They developed problem-solving skills by working at training team Ireland for the International Mathematical Olympiad and the European Girls Mathematical Olympiad.

Students delve deeper into the mathematical processes to extract their meaning and motivation, in a format that is easily accessible and appealing to a younger audience.

Gender balance is one of the main issues in Mathematics training especially at the highest levels of competence. Our project offers compelling role models to young female students. It benefits UCC students, secondary school students, teachers, community.

The Project

Our project aimed to encourage students to reflect on mathematics in a new way, by combining the traditional role of learner to that of teacher/curriculum creator, and thus also to attract/retain some of the most proficient students into teaching.

One of the pillars of the project is the vertical integration between second, third and fourth levels of mathematics education. For the successful run of this project, we first connected with postgraduate students and former.

We worked together with a team of colleagues and postgraduate students within the School of Mathematical Sciences at UCC, who worked in “training the trainers” and as moderators. They also helped design and deliver some of the taught content. We then recruited the cohort of undergraduate students whom we trained in working as tutors and mentors for the younger students in the Mathematics Enrichment and Work Experience programmes. During this training, students demonstrated teaching and giving feedback to each other, thus reflecting at the nature and modalities of Mathematics communication.

Our tutors then ran teaching and research workshops were they acted as team leaders for secondary school students. The program involved problem solving sessions where our students acted as teachers; individual and team competitions and awards.

The Impact

Demonstrated impacts of this project:


Former UCC students who worked as Mathematics Enrichment/Maths Circles tutors have gone on to prestigious PhD programmes at Oxford, Edinburgh, New York University, UCL, Imperial College London, etc. Many of their PhD projects involve applications of mathematics to industry-based problems. Other graduates typically have started successful careers in teaching, IT, statistics.

The programme guarantees a continuous stream of highly talented, well trained students who are attracted to undergraduate programmes in Mathematics. For example the top undergraduate students in first year Mathematics in 2020-2021 at UCC were among those who had participated in our 2019-2020 programme as secondary school students. Some of these have also multiple participations and awards at the International Mathematical Olympiad and the European Girls Mathematical Olympiad.

Students develop complex transferable skills and creative methods through working collaboratively at this project.

The project has had equal gender representation due to the role models it offers to younger students.


-The project has positively influenced the opinion on Maths and UCC of secondary school students and their teachers: “Just to update you on maths circles at CETSS. Firstly we had 9 students attend the Work Experience and Maths Circles training at UCC last January. The TY coordinator told me that in their end of year interview these students rated the week with you as the highlight of the year. So thank you for having so many of our students avail of the precious places.” Patricia McDonagh, CETSS, Cork.

 Project related events and outcomes are disseminated online throughthe School of Mathematical Sciences newspage https://www.ucc.ie/en/matsci/news/ 

Content developed through this programme was shared freely with public through https://www.irishmathstrust.com/mathematicians-in-our-lives  and https://www.irishmathstrust.com/maths-circlesas well as directly with partners in Irish schools and universities and partners abroad.



Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL)

West Lodge, Main Campus,