About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Meet the Classroom Changemakers

Classroom Changemakers is an award programme that seeks to unearth, celebrate and share great ideas from teachers and teaching assistants which aim to give young people the opportunity to be creative and solve problems in maths and computer science.

We all remember an inspirational teacher. Whether it was someone who helped instil confidence in a subject where we lacked it, someone who enabled us to achieve things we once felt were impossible, or someone who went above and beyond to make lessons exciting and accessible to all. The Classroom Changemakers award programme recognises 15 of these inspirational teachers who have developed new ways to give young people the chance to get creative and solve problems in maths and computer science lessons.

With these two vital subjects still suffering from a perception by many students of being difficult and dull according to recent research by Wellcome Trust, the ideas put forward by our Classroom Changemakers show that this need not be the case. From a James Bond themed maths day to a project on finding new ways to use technology in the local community, there are new and interesting ways to deliver these key subjects and allow creativity and problem solving to flourish within them.

After launching in January, Classroom Changemakers saw entries from over 100 different teachers from across the length and breadth of the UK. After a tough selection process which saw applications evaluated both by Nesta and a panel of subject experts, 15 teachers were successful. Each will receive £5,000 to invest into their departments, their idea profiled in a Classroom Changemakers report to be released in the Summer and the chance to attend a final awards ceremony to be held in the Autumn

During a time when there are school closures, cancelled exams and the risk of students being left behind, the need for teachers to be adaptable and innovative has never been stronger. Based on the evidence of our 15 Classroom Changemakers, the teaching profession has these skills in abundance and we hope you find their ideas as inspiring and thought provoking as we have.

Meet our Classroom Changemakers

Jessica Barnecutt, Assistant Headteacher, Mathematics, Oakland School, London

The Mathematics of Migration explores a big data set based on 500 refugees and migrants who crossed the channel in 2015, allowing them to critically engage with the realities of migration by using their maths skills. This is a five hour unit of work that uses the real data set from one of Europe’s largest academic research projects, MEDMIG, along with a powerful visual story to help grow understanding. The resources are freely available via TES.

John Healy, Teacher of Mathematics at Oakland School, London

Income support in Micro Society creates project based work where students create a micro-society of 24 families, each with complete profiles detailing family structure, living conditions, incomes and expenditures. Students are tasked with creating a policy to distribute income support benefits in which students must create a clear, precise mathematical model for distributing benefits, and engage with issues of fairness, inequality and efficiency to solve the problem.

Andy Jones, Head of Department, Computing, Sacred Heart High School, London

A new curriculum plan designed around a series of interlinked and open ended projects in which girls have a role in creating lesson objectives and the focus is on creativity, teamwork and students evaluating their learning. This idea was designed to help address the major gender gap found in secondary school computer science classes and has significantly expanded the cohort of girls taking computer science at Sacred Heart school. The sort of projects approached include the design of World War Two Enigma machines, in which students develop a deep understanding of German and British encryption, in addition to understanding each other’s perspective in order to create computer models which pass data to one another.

Tina Götschi, Vice Principal, Computer Science, Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, London

Ada runs comprehensive maths and computer science projects with industry partners including Deloitte, Bank of America and Salesforce. Taking place over three days, these projects involve the opportunity to use a wide range of skills including creativity and problem solving on a specific challenge such as a topical health or environmental issue. The industry partners help to refine each group's project and illustrate the links between maths, computer science and real world job opportunities.

Edward Vine, integrated STEaMplus Coordinator, Hockerill Anglo-European College, Hertfordshire

Focussing on three themes Flight: Space and Polar Exploration this iSTEaM project based approach focuses on designing and building a vehicle aircraft, rocket, mars rover or dragster through Computer Aided Design (CAD). The students study the scientific theory behind the project as well as mathematical basics and analysis such as, area, volume, density, vectors and graphs. Students are working in competition within teams as well as collaboration within science, DT and CT departments. Students are able to modify their designs in light of testing and racing, as well as gathering data to carry out experimental work which inform design decisions.

Amy Large, Maths Teacher, Millgate School, Leicester

Maths Themed Days give the students of Millgate School the opportunity to see Maths in an alternative, creative way which cuts across a range of other subjects and departments within the school. Using one theme, students are able to visit each department to study the day's theme. For example, James Bond day included using maths at the Casino Royal to consider the concept of probability via poker and blackjack to a Catering class which offered ‘shaken not stirred’ lessons which involved measuring qualities in different units to create a ‘mocktail’.

Subashini Suganthakumaran, Key Stage 3 Coordinator and Teacher of Mathematics, Hammersmith Academy, London

To encourage problem solving, Subashini Suganthakumaran has asked friends in industry to send in maths problems they have experienced in their working life which are then adapted and used in lessons. Not only does this ensure an interesting variety of problems to work on, but also highlights the sort of real-world issues that maths skills can help to solve. An example of a problem set was during Maths Week in June 2019, when a panel discussion was organised for all students in Year 9 and 10. One panelist provided students with formulae and information about a scheme she worked on with Uber. The problem was printed into the workbook created for the panel discussion and students worked through it, with the opportunity to feed it back to the person who created it.

Janice Osbourne, 2iC Computer Science, The Charter School North Dulwich, London

A mentoring programme designed to empower and support Year 10 students

The programme is focused on uplifting and supporting a group of Year 10 students with particular emphasis on those who lack confidence and are at the lower end of the ability range. Mentors were peers selected from the class based on performance in class as well as a reward for completing an in-class challenge. They were asked to attend a short training session based on the Harvard Mentorship Programme, students learned about the nature of mentoring skills such as; listening, questioning and about negotiating power imbalances. Interpersonal relations were taken into account when matching up mentors and mentees, each pair consent to the pairing and are encouraged to voice any concerns.

This is a six week programme with mentors and mentees meeting one hour per week to work through a set of programming challenges with the aim that the mentees become more confident in tackling programming tasks. The challenges worked on are a mixture of online resources, and school related provision.

Mari Chikvaidze, Teacher of Mathematics, Claremont High School Academy, Harrow

Mari Chikvaidze has designed a course that allows students to build up their computing and maths skills on a project about molecular biology. In addition to enabling students to use these skills in a new context, the idea has been delivered to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Bryan Irvine, Computing Science Teacher, Biggar High School, Lanarkshire

The Games Development project in use at Biggar High School is a project that teaches software development to first year students. This project engages learners in creative problem solving along with giving learners at all ability levels the chance to engage with the creative development process and achieve success through ownership and challenge.

Learners are asked to think about what ‘good’ means in the context of a game and through this we identify success criteria. Students are then asked to engage in a short piece of creative writing to tell the story of their game from the point of view of their main character. They are then taken through the process of learning about how to create their world, character, game mechanics which they have to place in the context of their own game.

Marc Matthews, Computer Science Teacher, West Exe School, Exeter

Year 9 and 10 pupils at West Exe school have been building apps that address community problems. Students have shown a keen interest in mobile app technology and a passion to improve their communities have been learning brainstorming methods to explore ideas to help their communities thrive as well as identifying the appropriate app features that are beneficial for members of their community, ensuring the technology has the capabilities to address the issues. Students have also managed the design of the app as well as prototyping the idea by using AppLab.

Michael Jones, Director Computer Science - Computer Science, Northfleet Technology College, Kent

Moving students from being passive recipients of artificial intelligence into active creators, Northfleet Technology College have been working with the Year 8 students to explore artificial intelligence and machine learning by considering social and moral questions such as ‘who is responsible for AI goes wrong?’ or ‘how can AI be harnessed to make people’s lives easier’. Students have developed an awareness of the processes involved in making a machine 'think'. This has required the selection of training data, for example, a range of facial expressions to develop a model of happiness, sadness, anger, testing of the data model and revision of the data set.

Domingo Garcia, Maths Teacher, Shaftesbury High School

Working closely with students with a range of physical, learning, emotional, sensory, behavioural needs, Domingo Garcia of Shaftesbury High School has been developing skills and aptitudes that will help young people become independent and valued members of the community and carve a pathway to employability. Incorporating enterprise focused project-based learning within the teaching of mathematics means learners come to understand how maths is used in the world of work by incorporating curriculum enrichment “mini projects” using and applying maths in real life contexts. Teaching their students about personal finance to enable their learners to gain an appreciation of money and its value. Students will learn recognition of coins and using money in class-based shopping activities as well as budgeting and shopping in different supermarkets.

Pete Dring, Head of Computing, Fulford School, York

Students struggling to articulate and understand computer science concepts and lacked confidence in debugging, as a result Pete Dring of Fulford School developed a programming pedagogical framework aimed at mixed ability students in Y7-11 called KPRIDE (Keywords, Predict, Run, Investigate, Debug, Extend). To encourage independence, creativity and logical problem solving skills students are asked to predict what code does, extend code with their own ideas leaving open ended programming challenges, investigate intriguing lines and debugging.

Clarissa Grandi, Stem Faculty Lead Practitioner, Mathematics, Thurston Community College, Suffolk

Clarissa Grandi has developed a way to use maths skills in an artistic context through Artful Maths. These fully resourced lessons which you can access here are designed to engage students through the creation of ‘mathematical art’ geometric patterns, allowing a fun way to understand geometric concepts. The lessons work by posing a question that requires students to visualise and form conjectures: for example “what are the paths of a trio of predatory bugs when each chases the bug to their right?”and “why is this object impossible to construct in reality?”. Students are encouraged to sketch their ideas and test their conjectures with manipulatives. Their answers are then discussed, and the interesting mathematics behind the situation drawn out. Finally, students are shown how to construct the geometrical patterns themselves using pencils, rulers and sometimes compasses.