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Primary Magazine - Issue 64: Where’s the Maths in That?

Created on 16 May 2014 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 04 June 2014 by ncetm_administrator


Primary Magazine Issue 64'Fossil nautilus' by Hitchster (adapted), some rights reserved

Where’s the Maths in That? – Maths across the curriculum

In this new section of this Primary Magazine we explore how mathematics can be embedded into other subjects in the context of the new curriculum. The subject in this new series is science and over the next few months we will explore the different themes for the KS1 and KS2 science programmes of study and how maths can be embedded in and enhance understanding of scientific ideas

The new programme of study for science suggests that the types of scientific enquiry approaches that pupils will learn “should include: observing over time; pattern seeking; identifying, classifying and grouping; comparative and fair testing (controlled investigations); and researching using secondary sources.” (p4).

In each key stage the processes for ‘working scientifically’ are prescribed as follows:


  • asking simple questions and recognising that they can be answered in different ways
  • observing closely, using simple equipment
  • performing simple tests
  • identifying and classifying
  • using their observations and ideas to suggest answers to questions
  • gathering and recording data to help in answering questions.


  • asking relevant questions and using different types of scientific enquiries to answer them
  • setting up simple practical enquiries, comparative and fair tests
  • making systematic and careful observations and, where appropriate, taking accurate measurements using standard units, using a range of equipment, including thermometers and data loggers
  • gathering, recording, classifying and presenting data in a variety of ways to help in answering questions
  • recording findings using simple scientific language, drawings, labelled diagrams, keys, bar charts, and tables
  • reporting on findings from enquiries, including oral and written explanations, displays or presentations of results and conclusions
  • using results to draw simple conclusions, make predictions for new values, suggest improvements and raise further questions
  • identifying differences, similarities or changes related to simple scientific ideas and processes
  • using straightforward scientific evidence to answer questions or to support their findings.

It is clear from these statements that there is much potential to enrich the learning of science and mathematics by integrating, where it is possible, both subjects in the planning and teaching.

In this issue we look at the theme of Rocks for Y3 and how a scheme of work for this might incorporate mathematical skills.

The statutory requirements for Rocks in the Y3 programme of study are:

  • compare and group together different kinds of rocks on the basis of their appearance and simple physical properties
  • describe in simple terms how fossils are formed when things that have lived are trapped within rock

Below are some ideas for incorporating maths into this science theme

1: Compare and group together different kinds of rocks on the basis of their appearance and simple physical properties

Rock samples by L C Nøttaasen, some rights reserved

Look at a selection of rocks and find ways to sort them. Say what is the same and what is different about the rocks. Play ‘Odd one out’ – find a reason why one rock is the odd one out when compared to two other different rocks.

Use a fair test to explore the permeability of different rocks by applying increasingly different amounts of water to the surface of each rock. Record the amounts of water used (measuring using a syringe) and record observations on a table.

Sort rocks on a table-top Carroll Diagram e.g. permeable/not permeable against sedimentary/not sedimentary. What conclusions (generalisations) might be drawn from the table?

Get pupils to use their experiments with this BBC online game to create their own Carroll Diagram.

2: Describe in simple terms how fossils are formed when things that have lived are trapped within rock

Mary Anning, in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Learn about Mary Anning and how her fossil discoveries changed scientists understanding of the world millions of years ago. Watch this video clip and then research her life. Plot key events on a timeline from when the fossil was a live animal to present day when the fossils can still be seen in museums and collections.

Compare a selection of fossils by measuring their lengths and masses. Research information about the largest and smallest fossils. Place them on a scale diagram.

Compare the fossil sizes to pupils’ own heights. E.g. approximately how many times higher or heavier is the largest ichthyosaur, compared to the pupils?

3: Recognise that soils are made from rocks and organic matter

soil samples by OregonDOT, some rights reserved

Separate different soils with different sized sieves. Compare the masses of the different particles collected through each sieve. Add the masses of separated matter to see if it weighs the same as the original soil before sifting. Compare the amounts of each type of matters sieved from each soil type.

You can get further general ideas for teaching this theme from the National STEM Centre National Curriculum pages.

Image credits
Page header by Hitchster (adapted), some rights reserved
'Large red rocks texture' by L C Nøttaasen (adapted), some rights reserved
Mary Anning in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Soil Samples by OregonDOT (adapted), some rights reserved.



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