Make maths meaningful with Explorify
It’s National Numeracy Day on 18th May so here’s a handful of Explorify activities that will provide a context in which to exercise those maths skills.
Let’s start with exercise as a context and consider the skills of making accurate measurements and estimations. How fast can you jump a mile? is a Big Question that will get children thinking about what can or cannot easily be measured. The background science provides information about the muscles used for jumping and also signposts another Explorify activity, To flee or not to flee, which includes film of kangaroos. Kangaroos can leap up to 9 metres in a single bound!
Children in Key Stage Two could record their own heights before measuring their standing jump distances, investigating whether taller people tend to jump farther? Or they might choose to consider whether longer feet give an advantage (as they do to the kangaroo) or whether the approximate length of your thigh bone makes a difference to the distance you can jump.
For Key Stage One children, a line the length of a hop (9m) could be chalked on the playground (with a kangaroo pictured at one end!) so children can investigate how many of them, lying head to toe, it could leap over. Younger children would also enjoy hearing a linked story like The Kangaroo Who Couldn’t Hop by Robert Cox and Jim Robins.
Moving from horizontal to vertical distances, Explorify challenges children to build upwards in Newspaper towers with reference to the 828.1m high Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest artificial structure. If you prefer, towers can be made from marshmallows and spaghetti strands, which works well with any age group.
Younger children could spot the triangles in their structures; older ones could name the types of triangle and identify other shapes as well. They might consider: Is it helpful to use lots of the same type and size of triangle? Are scalene triangles ever used? This Problem Solver challenge provides a great context for practising pattern and shape identification.
Contexts for counting can be found in Explorify’s short films. In terms of progression, a good place to start might be the watering hole shown in Thirsty work. How many elephants are there? Or you could freeze the action so what you’re counting isn’t moving about. Try counting the bees in Winter warmth or fish in In the swim.
Arrays make counting even easier, a starting point for this being the glass greenhouse panes in Under glass, or the seedlings shown in trays inside, or even the arrays of eggs in boxes in Standing on eggshells.
More challenging would be to count pairs of legs or the legs of multiple animals of the same type. You could start with this Explorify activity, a What If…? What if we had more than two legs? Move on to calculate the total number of legs for six beetles and five spiders. Mix it up!
Teeth offer another fun context for counting in How many vegetables should I eat? but this activity also suggests a context for honing data collection and representation skills. Create a class survey to find out the amount of fruit and vegetables children eat, or which types are their favourites. What if we didn’t use cars anymore? sets up another opportunity for data gathering: finding out how many children and parents walk or cycle to school or work.
Take a whisk shows four ways to whisk an egg white. The time taken is shown in minutes and seconds alongside a film of each method in action, good for getting to grips with reading digital timers. The next step could be to record volume using data loggers after trying to amplify sounds in the activity Make sound louder.
Finally, I have to mention a personal Explorify favourite, Sturdy pads, in which weights are placed on giant lily pads at Kew Gardens. Grab some same-size sheets of tinfoil, a large bowl of water and a box of bricks or marbles and investigate which group’s tinfoil boat will hold the most before it sinks – a splendid context for measuring mass.