Exploring maths at the Science Museum
Students from our two-year Secondary Mathematics Education BA(Hons) with QTS degree course went on a trip to London museums with senior lecturer Nicola Tuson.
The main objective of the trip was to visit the Science Museum’s Winton Gallery. The bold and thought-provoking gallery, was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, and examines the fundamental role mathematicians, their tools and ideas have played in building the world we live in.
Leading up to the trip students explored the mathematics involved in some of the artefacts on display in the Fundamental, Historical and Cultural Roots of Mathematics module:
- Napier’s Bones – a set of wooden sticks that can be used for calculating large multiplications. Students made a set using cardboard and then unpicked the maths involved to see why they work. The bones on display in the gallery were much smaller than expected – presumably so they could easily fit in a pocket or bag.
- Dice monopoly – dice were being used in 3000 BC and would have started out as a many-sided pebble or stone. In one of the lessons before the trip, students looked at which square you are most likely to land on on a Monopoly board and therefore should buy and build lots of houses and hotels on.
- Abacus – students made a Chinese abacus with paper and counters and practised doing addition on it. Moving the counters made the system of place value come to life.
Nicola said: “The gallery did not disappoint – as maths enthusiasts and future maths teachers it was a pleasure to spend a couple of hours in a room that celebrated the use of maths in the real world. There were navigational instruments, measuring instruments and musical instruments!
“There were lots of school children visiting too. It is great that they were given the opportunity to get out of the classroom and experience a school trip, which is often more than just about the educational aspect.”
In another degree module, Learning in a Digital Age, students looks at learning and education which included reading an article about attitudes towards school excursions.
Students also visited the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum where the Islamic mosaic patterns were a beautiful representation of tessellations and symmetry.
On the train, on the way up and on the way back, the students did something else that uses maths in real life – played cards! And shared out Werther’s Originals – what’s the maths going on there?
Everyone agreed that it was a really enjoyable day – spending time outside of the classroom in each other’s company and being able to celebrate maths.
We hope that the trainees take their own students on a similar trip when they qualify as teachers. We all remember the school trips we went on!
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