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Primary Magazine - Issue 76: Where’s the Maths in That?

Created on 12 May 2015 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 08 June 2015 by ncetm_administrator


Primary Magazine Issue 76'Butterfly World 2010' by Daniel Hall (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 couple of months in this school year 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 Living Things and Their Habitats (Y2) and how a scheme of work for this might incorporate mathematical skills.

The statutory requirements are that children are taught to:


  • explore and compare the differences between things that are living, dead, and things that have never been alive
  • identify that most living things live in habitats to which they are suited and describe how different habitats provide for the basic needs of different kinds of animals and plants, and how they depend on each other
  • identify and name a variety of plants and animals in their habitats, including micro-habitats
  • describe how animals obtain their food from plants and other animals, using the idea of a simple food chain, and identify and name different sources of food.

This theme involves a lot of sorting and classifying which enables pupils to use a number of diagrams to represent the information.

Use a Venn Diagram to sort living and non-living and to use the results of sorting to discuss the difference between dead and never lived. Talk about where these different classifications might fit.

Living, non-living Venn diagram

Pupils can also sort living things with two criteria by using a Carroll diagram:

  Lives in water Does not live in water
Has wings    
Does not have wings    

Pupils’ reasoning skills can be developed using a classification key. In this example from OpenLearn, the children need to consider the questions that need to be entered into the gaps in order to work out how the animals have been sorted. Before pupils have done this they will need to have used classification keys to sort living things from top to bottom so that they understand how they are structured. Further resources for grouping and classification can be found on the Science & Plants for Schools website.

Choice chambers are an interesting way of developing scientific enquiry around some of the life processes (movement, reproduction, sensitivity, nutrition, excretion, respiration and growth). Examples of questions include:

  • Which foods do beetles, woodlice and snails prefer?
  • What kinds of habitats do beetles, woodlice and snails prefer? (e.g. light/ dark/ damp/ dry etc)
  • Which colours do beetles, woodlice and snails prefer? (e.g. bright or dull colours).

In each case discuss how to make the test fair, e.g. number of organisms in each chamber at the start of the enquiry, the time all the organisms are left in the choice chamber; and the things that will change, e.g. whether it is dark or light, dry or moist, the food provided. Results can then be presented on a pictogram or block graph.

If observing the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly, pupils could keep a diary of their observations. Each day they note down the day and date and keep a record of observable changes.

As part of investigating about the characteristics of different living things and habitats, pupils could work together to make a class pack of top trumps cards. Pupils could play with a set already designed and then make their own from information they have researched. Bugfacts.net provides easily accessible text for KS1, although imperial measurements are given, not metric. There are lots of examples of trumps cards on the internet to download and use.

Suggested links

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



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05 June 2015 10:45
there's also an opportunity to look at number patterns or symetry- ladybirds, butterflies are obvious for symetry, and patterns in terms of number of legs, number of spots, etc.. children can investigate different animals they find to make their own patterns.
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