In Spain, it is well known that secondary school students’ motivation to study Science (especially Mathematics) is not very strong. This is a common problem to almost all Europe. Spanish and Andalusian governments have general policies on education to promote the study of Science. They are necessary and convenient. However, we think that local actions in the students’ environment, which supplement these policies, are also needed.
For this reason, five years ago we founded at the University of Almería an online free journal called Boletín de la Titulación de Matemáticas de la UAL (http://boletinmatematico.ual.es), mainly addressed to those students. Our intention is to stimulate their interest in mathematics, to develop their mathematical skills, to complement their background, and to improve their perception and assessment of mathematics. Many aspects, usually out of the syllabus, are treated to provide a closer, more real and positive image of mathematics. Another aim is to encourage a closer contact between secondary schools and our university. Although these are our main goals, we do not discard a broader audience and often include articles appropriate for a general public.
It is not a customary journal or gazette but a virtual place where secondary school students and teachers, undergraduate students and university professors can write about their experience with Mathematics in their classes, read and write short articles on mathematical spreading, participate in quizzes, see real life applications of Mathematics, etc. We do not know of a similar project in Spain, and our journal is now known all over the country.
Boletín is available in a well-known free format from our web page (pdf file), and elaborated with the free software LATEX, commonly used in the scientific world.
This project is a joint experience which is carried out by people working or studying in different levels of the Spanish educational system. There are professors and students from our university and teachers from secondary schools. The secondary school students are, as said, the main target of this project, and they can participate through the mathematical contest that we pose. There exists a closer contact later in the prize award ceremony at the winner’s secondary school. In such ceremonies, apart from awarding the prize, we give a talk on Maths and inform about our university degree in Maths, thus strengthening relationships with the winner’s secondary school and their Math teachers. No doubt, the contest is the way that leads us from our virtual site to the live contact with the most important part of our audience. Regarding our undergraduate students, they have their own section in the journal, called “Territorio Estudiante” (Student Area).
The journal is published in Spanish 3 times an academic course (October, January and April). Its length is around 20-25 pages and papers published must be short and suitable for a secondary school level. It is divided into 5 main sections, each of which has several subsections:
- Interviews, mathematical activities, and news.
- From Secondary School to University, containing teaching experiences, learning Maths in a foreign language, solutions to the university entrance exam Maths problems, etc.
- A mathematical contest for secondary school students.
- Mathematical spreading, including short articles about History of Mathematics, applications of Mathematics, Women and Mathematics, Culture and Mathematics, etc. Books and web pages reviews about Mathematics popularization appear here as well. Mathematical quotations and puzzles are also included.
- Student area, made itself by our undergraduate students and where, among other things, they speak about their experiences with mathematical studies and activities and interview Erasmus students and alumni.
The editorial committee consists of 3 main editors and 29 section editors, composed by professors of the University of Almería and teachers from secondary schools of our province, and 4 undergraduate students in charge of the student area. Although our goal is acting in our local environment, since we use a global tool such as the Internet, we usually receive experiences and articles from people from other regions, which is an indicator that Boletín is known out of our province. For example, the Spanish Royal Mathematical Society (RSME) in its nice site DivulgaMAT (www.divulgamat.net) includes a link with the summaries of the Boletín issues.
To spread our project, apart from our web site and visits to secondary schools, we announce the publication of a new issue in the RSME electronic bulletin, collaborate with the local press, use Facebook (group Almería Matemática with more than a hundred members), give out merchandising (pens with our logo, mathematical T-shirts, usb memories, etc.) and publicize it among our guest professors and at the universities we visit for research purposes.
Several facts allow us to claim that this project has a very positive effect. We are very interested in knowing if our efforts to bring the Mathematics closer to young people and teachers in schools are useful. Among the methods to know this we use:
- Measurement of the web traffic through the University of Almería’s official web page http://boletinmatematico.ual.es/estadisticas/. We had around 115,000 visits to our web last year and more than 45,000 downloads.
- Appearance in the local newspapers to achieve more social relevance (see the additional documentation).
- Number of visits that we pay to secondary schools and feedback from them since this quantity points out the interest that the Boletín arouses.
- Recognition by the local academic authorities. In 2011, we received the award for Excellence in Teaching Innovation.
In conclusion, with the invaluable help of our journal we have set up a reliable atmosphere between professors from our university and teachers from secondary schools in our region of influence. This has permitted to develop other activities jointly such as meetings about mathematical education (I Jornada del Profesorado de Almería, www.ual.es/Congresos/JPM2010/) or the group Almería Matemática in Facebook. Our Maths students at the university benefited from this and there is a growing interest among secondary school students in studying the degree in Mathematics at the University of Almería.