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Cross Curricular Maths

December 30, 2017

As you read this, you are hopefully relaxing and enjoying the feeling of actually having some time to stop and pause without the feeling of the daily race against the clock where your mind is filled with thoughts of all the things that need to be completed before a specific date or time, while also attending to the needs of thirty pupils. This is assuming that you are not entertaining a large extended family for days on end over Christmas!


In the next few days, your thoughts may well turn to planning for next term, and this is also a good time to pause and think about the maths that occurs in other subjects so that these occurrences can be used to consolidate and reinforce work completed in maths lessons.


The most obvious subject to link with maths would be science, and if you work in a school that employs a dedicated science teacher, the planning of topics could be coordinated so that the concepts learnt in maths are applied in science lessons. Taking measurements and using equipment to gather data, which is then recorded, runs through the science curriculum even for young pupils while older pupils are required to use tables, scatter graphs, bar and line graphs to communicate what they have discovered.


Of course, looking for applications of maths in science does not have to take place in science lessons; exploring questions about space, for example, is a useful way to engage pupils while applying maths. Earth’s Rotation Day takes place on the 8th January each year when we remember the demonstration by French physicist, Leon Foucault, in 1851 which showed that the Earth rotates on its axis. Talking of which, you could introduce the fact that the Earth’s day has been lengthening by two milliseconds every century due to the gradual slowing of the planet’s rotation. Pupils could then work out how many years it would take before a day lasts for 25 rather than 24 hours. Click on the Earth symbol below to link to a slide of this problem that can be used in the classroom.


Art may not be an obvious area to link with maths, but my mind was changed about this when I first took part in the Take  One Picture scheme that is organised by the National Gallery in London each year. One painting is chosen by the gallery as the focus and lessons were linked to the painting for a week. Working on The Family of Darius before Alexander resulted in pupils creating life-sized arches and balconies out of paper, based on those seen in the painting. Pupils had to estimate the scale to use, measure and draw accurately while also working out how to draw a semi-circle when the only compasses available were far too small for the task. When creating a piece of art based on the painting, pupils also explored the ratios of paint colours needed to create the effect that they required.


Geography is also an area of the curriculum that utilises measures and scales as well as directional language for younger pupils and grid references for older students. Journeys made by historical characters can be mapped out and travelling times can be estimated depending on the mode of transport. This can also be applied to current maps where pupils estimate the distance from their school or home to local places based on the map scale and how long it would take to get there, which can then be quickly checked on Google Maps.


Using historical timelines which involve times BCE can be less confusing for pupils when linked to negative numbers on the number line in terms of the higher numbers being further to the left when BCE. Pupils may point out of course that there is no year zero on a chronological timeline and the years BCE are not displayed as negative, unlike the number line, and this is worth discussing. If studying the Romans, their number system provides an interesting contrast to the base ten system that we currently use which depends on place value. 


Warm-up activities in PE hold great potential for practising number work such as various multiples being awarded for gaining points and penalties involving dividing by or subtracting a specific number. Gym sessions also provide wonderful opportunities for creating human geometrical poses where pupils are given criteria such as showing symmetry, parallel and perpendicular lines while working in groups. Meanwhile, the summer months provide lots of measuring opportunities when the time arrives for athletics.


English can also be linked to maths, such as instructions being written out for creating paper aeroplanes as homework and then pupils being given the opportunity to fly them the following day to see which design travels the furthest. Another area that can be used is persuasive writing where pupils have to persuade the headteacher and governors how to use parts of the playground or field. Plans need to be drawn to scale to accompany their persuasive letters regarding their suggested uses.


The ideas above only touch the surface, and it is worth getting teachers together to develop ideas for cross-curricular planning since it is such an effective way for pupils to see the application of maths within various contexts.  To ensure that these aspects are considered when planning, it is worth having the headings of Real Life and Cross-Curricular Applications on your planning documents.


So as the clock ticks down to 2018, why not let your mind wander and jot down any ideas, no matter how bizarre they may seem initially, for cross-curricular maths work and if you feel like sharing, add them to the Facebook group  since seeing someone else's ideas often triggers ideas of our own.






Click here for a slide that can be used in the classroom which introduces a problem connected to the Earth's rotation slowing down.

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