Two years ago, I had a fascinating chat with Rob Leslie at a mutual friend's party. Upon hearing that he was a maths teacher, I resisted the impulse to share with him my tales of maths woe and, instead, asked him what he did to make maths accessible, clear and relatable to his students. In other words, I asked him about his creative approach to teaching and about the relationship between maths and creativity, although, at the time, the word 'creativity' wasn't used.
Rob studied maths and computation (computer science with a strong mathematical foundation) at Oxford and worked as a computer programmer. His keen interest in languages led him to take French and Latin GCSE and, later on, to study Spanish and Polish in his free time and take an EFL (English as foreign language) course. He taught English in Poland for four years, before moving back to the UK, where he taught a mix of EFL, maths and computer studies. He now teaches A-Level maths and Further maths at Hills Road Sixth Form College, in Cambridge.
Today's conversation is a continuation of our first chat and an opportunity to show you that there is creativity, even in a subject like maths, dreaded by so many, including yours truly. Rob shares his take on creativity as a transformative process, whether in making food, learning languages, or using maths. Demystifying key concepts, such as rules and problem-solving, he shows us that it’s possible to be flexible, playful and to experiment when teaching and learning maths. That maths is a language, which allows us to ask questions and has many practical applications in everyday life, including in marketing and medicine.
Maths to him is an art form, constantly surprising, and even, at times, funny! His love of his subject is infectious. And we also talk about chocolate (a favourite topic of mine!), which he creates, because who doesn’t want to know more about chocolate-making?! So I hope you will enjoy this interview, and that some of you might even look at maths in a whole new, and creative, light.
The Creativity for All Podcast is sponsored by Blue as an Orange, where we believe in creativity through communication and offer mentoring and coaching for aspiring writers, tailored language tuition and editing/translation services.