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Using Art Gallery Problems to teach mathematical and employability skills in a higher education group project

BSRLM Autumn Conference 2009, Loughborough University (14/11/2009).

"Problem Solving" is a second year BSc (Hons) Mathematics module aimed at developing mathematical and transferable skills rather than teaching a particular topic. Some literature is reviewed in relation to employability and what group projects can achieve in skills development. The application of this to designing a group project task and associated assessment based around Art Gallery Problems is presented. These problems in combinatorial geometry are phrased in "real-world" terms, as a problem of minimising the number of guards needed to view every point in an art gallery. However the simplifying assumptions limit the real-world applicability which allows plenty of room for students to explore the limitations and possible extensions of the theory. This task was intended to develop team working and other key skills and to encourage critical evaluation of a mathematical model and communication of mathematical ideas to audiences of differing mathematical abilities. The assessment included an initial plan, minutes of weekly team meetings, reports to a nonmathematical 'client' and a report and presentation to a mathematical audience. Results from a student evalutation of the project are also presented.