CALVARY Mater Newcastle radiation oncologist Jarad Martin is known for his vital work researching prostate and gastrointestinal cancers and delivering radiotherapy to patients.
But once a term he steps into a Tighes Hill Public School classroom to take on a very different role.
For more than four years, Dr Martin has made regular visits to the school’s year five and six opportunity class to discuss mathematical ideas ranging from life on other planets, to how a robot is able to beat humans in a board game, how many hairs are on a human head and the man who proved a 350 year old theorem.
“These kids are really switched on and engaged,” Dr Martin said.
“They often ask questions that are out of left field and make you stop and think before you answer, like is there life out there in the universe.
“You need to get another part of your brain to kick into gear.
“Those are the kind of answers that you can’t exactly bat away in one word.”
Dr Martin’s relationship with the school was fostered under CSIRO’s Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools (SMiS) Program, which partners STEM professionals with teachers to bring science and maths to life in the classroom.
Dr Martin, who the students call Dr Jarad, enrolled during his last year of medical studies in a Bachelor of Science majoring in Mathematics, which he completed over 15 years while doing his specialty training.
“I want to demonstrate to them that they are surrounded by maths and no matter what they’re doing in the future, its likely to involve mathematics in some way,” he said.
“It’s also about equipping them with versatile skills.”
Dr Martin said no two sessions were alike and could cover subjects including famous mathematicians and mathematical theories; problem solving; and using estimation to calculate, for example, how many blades of grass are in a yard.
He said he saw his visits as volunteer work that allowed him to get out of his comfort zone and practice breaking down complex ideas to digestible components, which was also helpful with colleagues and patients.
Class teacher Kerrie Armstrong said her 28 students “loved” Dr Martin’s visits and often went away enthused to do their own research about subjects they discussed.
“It’s about engagement and giving them a better understanding of what is out there and what is available for them,” she said. “It’s about planting the seed and seeing where it grows.”
Ms Armstrong said many of her students were already considering careers in engineering and medicine.