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Secondary Magazine - Issue 56: An idea for the classroom

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Created on 18 March 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 30 March 2010 by ncetm_administrator


Secondary Magazine Issue 56   skier on graph

An idea for the classroom - ski graphs

I have talked before about engaging with my students on a personal level – trying to build up a relationship that acknowledges that we all exist and have lives that are independent of the maths classroom!!

February half term, for me, was spent having some brilliant skiing in Austria. As a mathematician, I was equally delighted that when I got back at the end of each day, I could log on to a website, enter the number of my ski pass and then access data about the ski lifts I had used that day.

ski data graphs

This resource is a PowerPoint (also available in PDF format) showing the data available for two of those ski days.

How did I use this in the classroom?

I used these graphs as a starter, so I displayed the PowerPoint slide in my classroom but also gave each pair of pupils a print out as they found it easier to read. Rather than just do this for myself, I printed and laminated a set of 16 as they then got passed around the department.

I asked my pupils, in pairs, to tell me five things that were the same and five things that were different about the two days’ skiing. Here are some of the things they came up with:

On both days:
  • I descended to lower than the start altitude
  • used the same lift to start
  • the start and finish altitudes were the same
  • I stayed above 900m
  • I started before 10:00.


  • on the first day, between 12 and 1, I had used the same lifts several times, on the second day there was a greater variety of lifts used
  • on the second day I skied for longer – 7 hours 3 minutes as opposed to 6hours 35 minutes (impressive, eh?)
  • on the first day I probably had a lunch break between 13:30 and 14:00, on the second day it doesn’t look as though I stopped at all
  • on the second day I skied the longest run and used the longest and fastest lift at around 13:00
  • I went higher on the second day
  • I skied faster on the second day.

In making these statements, the pupils had to understand the information on the graphs. I tried to encourage them to be more precise with some of their comments – putting in times or altitudes where appropriate. They came to the conclusion that I was having an ‘easy day’ on the first of these graphs! I was keen to tell them how much I had enjoyed it!

I am always unsure whether pupils can relate to these experiences if they have never been on a ski holiday but the functional skills standards talk about ‘familiarity’. Even if pupils have never set a ski on the snow, interpreting a graph of an unfamiliar situation is still a useful skill.

Have you used some interesting graphs for pupils to interpret? Why not tell us about them here?

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