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“The whole trend of research in learning mathematics suggests that children build up their schemas of understanding in individual and rather unpredictable ways. Recognising this does not mean abandoning a good sequence of activities but it does mean teaching in a flexible way which makes use of and is responsive to their ideas.”
Tom Brissenden,
Talking about Mathematics

More Maths and Drama

Maths through drama for older primary classes

Mathematics is often regarded as a dry, somewhat solitary, pencil and paper sort of subject. It gives the impression that the answer must be either right or wrong and that there is no room for exploration and ingenuity. Mathematicians will tell you that this is not so and that maths is a highly creative subject. It just doesn't always seem that way in the primary classroom. Drama can be an excellent maths enthusiasm reviver. The advantages of including drama also include renewed creativity and the encouragement of effective group collaboration and teamwork. This approach can be very supportive to the less able and still be a challenge to the more able.

Example 1. Robots (version1)
This activity is simple enough to be used with younger children but can be developed to stretch the older age group. A version can be found in the free downloadable chapter of "Starting with Story". I have found it very useful with mixed age classes.
I asked the children, in pairs, to design a new board game, perhaps with the view to creating a prototype computer game. Each pair were given an eight by eight grid on paper. There was to be one safe path for the robots, every other square being filled by a trap, acid, fire, pits of snakes, whatever. Once these grids were complete, a programme was written that would guide the robots along the created safe path. These constructs could only understand the following instructions:
  • Forward 1-9, e.g. F4
  • Left e.g. L
  • Right e.g. R
  • Stop e.g. S
Therefore, a sample programme might look like this F5 - L - F6 - R - F2 - L - F3 - S
The children went on to explore and use their codes. They worked together in the classroom and out side developing more complex language and programmes for their robots. Later a group game based on vectors was designed and lead to a great deal of discussion concerning probability and chance. If characters representing "fire", "acid" or "water" could move one square, each time the robot moved, how many fire, acid, water people would be needed to make the chances for the robot about 50-50? What would be the optimum size grid and why? There was a great deal of fun in making these games look dramatic and masks were constructed for the "playing characters". View Robot route task planner

Version 2
This robot game was based on the creation of puzzle grids where the robots had to end up on the same square. A few examples were offered and then the pairs had to design some of their own. Again, the fun came when we asked people to take roles as robots and to develop a story around the game rules. To view this game version click here

Click here to continue with a further example of Maths and Drama.