Royal Yachting Association - Making Maths Meaningful
Maths for year 8s is plain sailing
“What happens to the area of a triangle when you double its size?” is not the kind of question likely to get your average year 8 student rushing enthusiastically into the classroom.
Change the word ‘triangle’ to ‘sail’, however, and you’ve got a huge opportunity to build enthusiasm.
At Heywood Community School in the Forest of Dean, maths teacher Andrew Mills has been taking his year 8s for sailing lessons at South Cerney Outdoor Education Centre (SCOEC) since 2007. Each student attends three two-hour sessions on the water with qualified sailing instructors, and as well as learning the basics of sailing, the youngsters are being stretched mentally. After lessons in which they revisit their knowledge of triangles, angles and bearings, they are being introduced to vectors, – a topic far in advance of their usual maths experience.
The sailing lessons also allow the students to take questions back to the classroom. For example, those not attending a SCOEC session may be building tiny model dinghies, and experimenting with sail size with the help of some domestic fans.
Andrew was so delighted with the first year’s results of this initiative, that he has continued it: “This is a great opportunity to hit lots of learning styles; even the students nervous about going on (or in) the water are having a great time after half an hour. They are gaining confidence and learning ‘through the back door’.”
The project has allowed Heywood to extend the maths and push the more able children from a relatively underprivileged area who might not otherwise get the chance to try sailing. It has been organised through the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) OnBoard scheme, which works with schools and sailing clubs to offer youngsters the experience of sailing and windsurfing.
One of the principle aims of specialist status is to raise standards across the whole school. The specalist sport stutus at Heywood has supported the maths curriculum in delivering a better understanding of the applications of maths.
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