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Sparx funds University of Bristol PhD student investigating statistical modelling for personalised maths learning

29 September 2020

The University of Bristol is today announcing a new supporter of Compass – the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Computational Statistics and Data Science. South West based learning technology company Sparx, has agreed to sponsor a PhD student’s research project which will investigate new approaches to longitudinal statistical modelling within school-based mathematics education.

Sparx, which is located in Exeter, develops maths learning tools to support teaching and learning in secondary education. As an evidence-led company, Sparx has invested heavily in researching how technology can support the teaching and learning of maths and worked closely with local schools. This new investment underlines their ongoing commitment to research.

Colin Hegarty, Director of Education, Sparx said: “We’re really pleased to be working with the University of Bristol to support research work to understand more about the statistical modelling of personalised learning in maths. We are committed to investing in research which helps us all to understand more about teaching and learning maths.”

Compass is a 4-year PhD training programme focusing on Computational Statistics and Data Science. This new venture with Sparx is part of the Compass mission to promote academic and professional agility in its students, equipping them with the skills and experience to work across disciplines in academia and beyond.  

Professor Nick Whiteley, Director of Compass, said: “Maths teaching and learning in schools has such far reaching consequences for all of us. I’m delighted to build this new relationship and thrilled for Compass to support Andrea in her collaborative research with Sparx.”

PhD student Andrea Becsek has already successfully completed a mini-research project with the company and will start her main research study using Sparx usage data as well as simulated data in October. She will investigate a range of modelling options and look to develop efficient new approaches to simulate learning processes.

“I am really looking forward to starting this new chapter in my research. The opportunity to work with Sparx using real datasets is very exciting. I’m also going to be talking to some of the Sparx schools about my research which provides a valuable opportunity to keep me connected with educators.”

To help launch her research Andrea has written a guest blog for Sparx which can be read here: http://sparx.co.uk/

Andrea will be supervised by Professors William Browne (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/education/people/william-j-browne/overview.html) and George Leckie (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cmm/team/leckie.html) in the University of Bristol’s Centre for Multilevel Modelling, School of Education and Christophe Andrieu (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/maths/people/christophe-andrieu/index.html) from the School of Mathematics along with co-supervisors at Sparx.

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