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Primary Magazine - Issue 75: Where’s the Maths in That?

Created on 23 April 2015 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 02 March 2018 by ncetm_administrator


Primary Magazine Issue 75Electricity pylons in a winter landscape by net_efekt (adapted), some rights reserved

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

In this 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 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. You can find previous features in this series here

In this edition we look at the theme of Electricity for Y4 & Y6 and how a scheme of work for this might incorporate mathematical skills.

The statutory requirements are that children are taught to:


  • identify common appliances that run on electricity
  • construct a simple series electrical circuit, identifying and naming its basic parts, including cells, wires, bulbs, switches and buzzers
  • identify whether or not a lamp will light in a simple series circuit, based on whether or not the lamp is part of a complete loop with a battery
  • recognise that a switch opens and closes a circuit and associate this with whether or not a lamp lights in a simple series circuit
  • recognise some common conductors and insulators, and associate metals with being good conductors.


  • associate the brightness of a lamp or the volume of a buzzer with the number and voltage of cells used in the circuit
  • compare and give reasons for variations in how components function, including the brightness of bulbs, the loudness of buzzers and the on/off position of switches
  • use recognised symbols when representing a simple circuit in a diagram.

Suggested activities to use mathematics

  • Discuss which appliances require mains electricity and which run on batteries; also which could use either, and construct a Venn diagram to show this.
  • Sort materials that are conductors/ not conductors (i.e. insulators) against metal/ not metal on a Carroll diagram to help generalise about good conductors. Pupils should have the opportunity to experience that graphite in pencils conducts electricity but is not a metal and to place this correctly on the Carroll diagram.
  • Investigate the brightness of a bulb as the circuit length varies. i.e. measure the length of the wire. Use a data logger to sense the light emission in lumens by using 1m tube to cover the bulb (to shield external light). Plot the data on a table and transfer to a graph. Observe whether the points plotted could be used to predict the light emitted with any length of wire.
  • Design a decision tree/flow diagram for why an electrical circuit might not work.
  • Investigate what happens to the brightness of a bulb or loudness of a buzzer as more components are added to a circuit. Use a data logger to provide accurate measurements to present on graphs.
  • Electricity bills provide a wealth of opportunities to practise arithmetical skills. E.g. finding the difference between meter readings to calculate consumption over a period of time, calculating cost of consumption, comparing consumption at different times of the year, looking at graphs that provide information about year on year consumption. This site provides useful information about what a bill contains.
  • This electrical consumption calculator enables pupils to see how much electricity is used to run different common household devices. Pupils could survey the use of these pieces of equipment in their own home and then work out how much electricity is used to run them in a week, month and year. Pupils could also use the calculator to find out how much each appliance costs to run in a week, month and year.
  • Pupils could design a consumption calculator in a spreadsheet by writing formula to work out the cost, usage per week, month and year.

Suggested links

Image credits
Page header by net_efekt (adapted), some rights reserved



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