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Maths Trails across Cambridge

Published on 08/07/14

Maths Trails offer huge potential for learning experiences at all ages. Cambridge is such a beautiful city and has witnessed many amazing discoveries so we thought it would be an excellent place to design a Maths Trail around.

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We were aiming to improve pupil’s mathematical thinking, not just their observational skills. We wanted the questions to be appealing and provide opportunities for children to explore and develop strategies for solving a variety of problems. From research we know that a change of environment can help to make pupils more willing to offer suggestions and can enrich pupils’ mathematical talk and awareness.

It was a beautiful sunny day and armed with our trails, pens, first aid kits (just in case!) and camera we set off.

We had shapes to sketch and discuss at the Judge Business School (Old Addenbrookes) and the volume of part of the sculpture to estimate at the Department of Engineering; we found Newton’s coat of arms and discussed his mathematical discoveries and found the plaque remembering Stephen Perse.

We discussed the cost of the rebuilding the Cavendish Laboratory today using 10,000% inflation and talked about the tolling intervals of the bells at St Bene’ts church – the oldest church in Cambridgeshire. We discussed DNA after visiting the Eagle Pub in Bene’t street where the announcement of the discovery of DNA was made; we worked out how often the Chronophage is accurate and we estimated the height of the spires of Kings’ College Chapel.

photo (2)We cracked a code in memory of Alan Turing who studied at Mathematics at Kings College and who successful broke the enigma code in World War II. Then we worked out the angle between the beams of the mathematical bridge and found the grid reference on a Cambridge map for our school; we also found out where Charles Darwin had lived and estimated the length of the ship he sailed on to the Galapagos Islands using our strides. Plus we answered lots of other questions along the way covering many mathematical topics that pupils have learned over the past year.

Finally we made it back to school in time to enjoy squash and doughnuts at break-time which were kindly provided by the kitchen staff and much appreciated by students.

Everyone enjoyed themselves – teachers and pupils alike. We had lots of positive feedback and we will most definitely do the trail again with next year’s Year 7.