Four years after Teach First, I joined Ofsted as a statistician and researcher, which reignited my interest in academic study. When I saw the advert to work on a PhD in maths cognition and education at Loughborough, it felt like it was made for me!
What were you doing before starting your PhD?
I studied Psychology at the University of Exeter before training as a secondary maths teacher through Teach First. I completed an Educational Leadership MSc at the University of Bristol during my time as Deputy Head of Maths; this was quite a full-on time in my life.
What is your research project about?
In my research project I am looking at how to optimise the learning of multiplication and division facts in school children, using data from an online educational gaming platform. My studentship is collaborative with Maths Circle, who make the online educational game Times Tables Rock Stars. I am using data from this platform to study children’s learning and retrieval of multiplication and division facts. This has implications for how we teach times tables in schools.
I am currently writing up my first study for publication, which looks at the types of errors pupils make when answering times tables. It’s one of the first studies to do this with data collected in ‘real life’ as opposed to in an experimental context. The results tell us more about how we store multiplication facts, specifically about the cognitive networks we have that connect problems and answers. Interestingly, the results also seem to closely align with previous research.
What's your experience been like so far at Loughborough?
The centre that I am doing my PhD in – the Centre for Mathematical Cognition (CMC) – is a very exciting place to be right now. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by experts and colleagues with diverse and interesting backgrounds, as well as being in the epicentre for the study of maths cognition.
The facilities here at Loughborough continue to be great! As part of the PhD, I completed an MSc in Social Science Research; the modules were wide-ranging and stimulating, and the teaching was focussed and motivated me to think about my research differently, from various perspectives. I really enjoyed the MSc. I now work in an office with other PhD students, with excellent resources. I’ve never struggled to access what I need.
I was a bit unlucky, as I started my PhD in the height of the pandemic. However, Loughborough and my department have been tenacious in keeping up some social events (virtual or otherwise!) and since returning to campus, I am really enjoying experiencing the atmosphere more. It feels convivial and welcoming and there’s always something going on.