Maths on Toast was set up in 2012, in frustrated response to the lack of opportunities for families to have fun doing maths together. If a parent wants to support their child’s literacy, they can go to the library, support them in the school play, or read them a story. Why wasn’t the same support (and fun) available for numeracy and maths?
We decided to see what we could do on a shoestring. We found an empty shop in Walthamstow that we could borrow for a day, and we advertised a fun family maths event. There was a queue outside the door when we arrived to set up! Families told us they had a great time, but they weren’t sure it was maths. And so our first lesson was learned: there is so much fear and prejudice around maths that if you offer fun, creative maths activities, people may not believe they are doing maths at all.
We repeated our event in community spaces and in schools, and developed Festival of Triangles, an event that a teacher, with the help of a simple kit, can run in their own school.
Meanwhile, other opportunities came our way. We were approached by a theatre maker who was interested in exploring the idea of struggle and making mistakes. We were introduced to a museum who wanted to add some maths to their family learning experiences. Parents told us they wanted more help with times tables and we developed a maths card game Number Rumbler, and crowdfunded it. A project with Pancras Square Library, in Camden, became a regular monthly family maths event.
Our founding team, Alexandra Fitzsimmons, Paul Wilmott, Alison Clark-Wilson and Sophie Smith, was joined by others with particular skills we needed to make our charity grow. We developed our business model, and supportive funders have helped us deliver projects and develop activities that schools and families will find good value, so we can generate income from sales as well as fundraising. Our ambition is to spread the word to everyone in the UK that maths is something do-able and enjoyable and we’re working hard to connect to schools and individuals.
How we work
Our school activities reach families who face barriers to attending public events but who may be more likely to attend an event in a school. Workshops and conferences with teachers encourage them to deliver their own events to continue our work and broaden impact.
We reach new and diverse audiences through partnerships with creative organisations (eg theatre producers) and museums and by developing resources to increase impact, support teachers and parents, and to encourage our audiences to take things further.
We work with our audiences and creative partners to develop products, activities and ideas, and we work with community partners to ensure we reach the broadest possible audience.
Theory of Change
Our Theory of Change, explains how our creative, community maths activities can support positive experiences of maths – needed because maths anxiety, along with inherited beliefs about maths ability, is prevalent in the UK.
Maths is a core school subject and numeracy is linked to life chances1. Our economy and society need mathematically literate people. Yet negative attitudes to maths prevail in the UK, from ‘I can’t do maths’ as an (imitated and inherited) facet of identity to mathematically disabling ‘maths anxiety’2.
We want everyone to feel positive about maths – to feel that it is something they can do, and enjoy
To make maths a creative, enjoyable, human, social activity for families and communities
We run events, develop activity and product ideas and work in partnership to create fun, meaningful and impactful ways of engaging with maths
People taking part in our activities will …
- Enjoy doing maths together, and be aware it is maths they are enjoying
- Be supportive of others’ mathematical learning
- Have positive, shared family memories of mathematics
- Broaden their view of what maths is
- Engage in mathematical activities, showing concentration, play, and perseverance
- Increase their enthusiasm for maths, reduce any fear of it – and do more, afterwards
- Increase their confidence in maths – seeing it as something they can do
- Interact with a broad section of the community and become more aware of the opportunities maths opens up to them