We sat down with Alexandra Fitzsimmons, Founder of Maths on toast: a charity that focuses on taking the fear out of maths.
1.How did you come up with the idea? And the brilliant name?
I had been working in family learning in museums for a long time and I studied maths at uni. I wondered why children didn’t have the opportunity to learn maths in an informal and fun way, like they do for other subjects.
We knew that maths obviously needed to be in the name as our main aim is to change children’s attitudes towards the subject and to help them learn better. But we needed to have something else in the name too, so that they knew we weren’t scary! We came up with lots of names and tested them out on facebook to see what other people thought of them. It took a couple of months to decide on the right name.
2. Why do you think there is such a negative attitude towards maths?
Part of the reason is that it’s socially acceptable to say you aren’t good at maths. But deeper than that, people are scared of maths because many believe that being good at maths is a genetically inherited gift. Meaning you are either a maths person or you’re not.
What people need to understand is that it’s perfectly okay to be slower than others at maths - you’ll find professional mathematicians who are, but what they do is persevere, finding different methods to solve problems. They are really good at being stuck!
3.When did you first start?
We first started in 2012.
4.Who is your main target audience? Parents? Schools? Children?
We’re aiming for families with children aged from 5 to 12 years old, and we want to reach as diverse a range of families as we can, which is why we go through different schools in order to reach parents. Even when we work with schools themselves, we will encourage parents to participate as well.
5.Can you tell me about the Festival of Triangles and Number Rumbler? How you work with schools and parents?
Festival of Triangles is a week long series of activities for schools celebrating mathematics through triangles and ending with a big community event where parents, carers, teachers and the children are all invited and come together for an afternoon of fun. Number Rumbler is a numbers card game that parents and schools can buy, kids can also take it home from school the way they’d borrow a book from a library.
6. How do you sell your product? Is it freely available?
We sell Number Rumbler online on amazon for UK customers, and on our website you can find out how to buy it if you live outside the UK.
We are also increasing our online presence to grow awareness of our charity and our products. But many people hear about us through word of mouth, particularly through our Festival of Triangles program.
7. How do you get feedback from your product?
We got a lot of feedback when we first developed Number Rumbler since we worked with many children and parents. Today we get comments from Amazon reviews from customers and are always looking to get more feedback to improve the product.
8. Are there any new products being worked on?
We are developing new versions of Number Rumbler and there are other products in the pipeline but it’s too early to discuss them.
9. How do you get funding?
We mainly get funding through grants, donations and trading but whenever we’re developing new stuff it’s generally sensible to get grants.
10. Any future Goals?
Well our very long term goal is to reach every student and family in the UK and make everyone feel more positive about maths.