Making connections between mathematics and geography

Thanks to Caroline Clissold for this month's maths blog which explores at maths across the curriculum and suggests activities to connect maths and geography.

Underneath the three aims of the national curriculum it states:

“Mathemtics is an interconnected subject in which pupils need to be able to move fluently between representations of mathematical ideas. The programmes of study are, by necessity, organised into apparently distinct domains, but pupils should make rich connections across mathematical ideas to develop fluency, mathematical reasoning and competence in solving increasingly sophisticated problems. They should also apply their mathematical knowledge to science and other subjects.”

Linking mathematics to other curriculum subjects is something that a lot of schools do very well but there are many that don’t consider planning possible, tangible and real-life connections. Science is quite an obvious link but what about other subjects such as art, geography and history? Making links enables children to use and apply the mathematics skills they have mastered in a variety of contexts. 

One of my favourite problems that I give to Year 6 children is about an archaeologist who has to travel from Durham to Carlisle to investigate a problem at an archaeological dig. He is a nervous driver and drives only on A roads at around 50mph. He drives from Durham to Carlisle via Penrith. The children’s task is to work out what time he will arrive in Carlisle if he sets off at 10am. They work in pairs using a map of the area, string and a ruler. They find possible routes and estimate the shortest using the string. The map has a scale in kilometres. The children convert the centimetre length to kilometres. Obviously, we use miles and our speed is measured in miles per hour, so the kilometre distance needs converting to miles. What is so good about the problem is that it involves measuring different lengths and distances and converting to different units using multiplication and also calculating with time.

What struck me was that you could take the same type of activity, make it age appropriate and link it into any trips you might be taking in school. Now that we are approaching the end of this academic year and summer has arrived, residential or day trips become a popular part of school life. 

You could provide the children with some maps with scales (preferably in kilometres) and ask the children to plan a route from school to where you are going. They could explore several different routes to find the shortest. What roads will they travel on? They could trace the routes with string and convert the centimetre measurements to kilometres according to the scale on the map. 

They could then work out how long it might take to travel to their destination on a coach that averages a speed of 60mph. You could discuss the fact that most of the world measures distance in kilometres, in the UK we use miles. So that means we have to convert the kilometres to miles in order to find how long it will take to travel the distance.

Once they have the approximate travel time, they work out what time they would need to leave school in order to arrive at a specific time or what time they would get there if they left school at a specific time. 

Measurement activities like this are a real life application of the mathematics skills that the children are taught and could be included regularly in number-based work. This would be a good problem if working on multiplication and division because of the conversions that need to be made. However it would also be a good task to carry out during a topic time.

Plannning a holiday

Why not ask the children to plan a holiday for an imaginary friend of yours who wants to go somewhere hot, dry and close to the sea. Your friend might have a budget of, for example, £1,500. You could ask the children to look in holiday brochures for possible destinations. Encourage them to spot the numbers and sort them according to type, for example, money, temperature and percentages. Encourage them to do a little research on various countries with a coastline, for example, look at the flag and notice shapes, symmetry, translations, rotations if appropriate, find temperatures, rainfall and hours of sunshine. Children can then choose a holiday destination and accommodation that meets your friend’s requirements. 

The children will need to book flights. Flight timetables are readily available from the internet. They will need to find return flights that, when added to the cost of the accommodation, are within your friend’s budget. 

You might ask the children to write a travel plan which involves working out the time your friend will need to leave home in order to get to the airport in time to catch the flight and then what time they will land at the destination. Make sure you leave enough time for check in and know about any time differences!

The children could also make up a ready reckoner to help your friend work out how much things cost in the country in our currency. Ready reckoners are a great way to practice scaling up, using what you already know and mental calculation strategies. For example, if the children decide to send your friend to Spain, the exchange rate is £1 for every €1.25.

Ask them to find the equivalent euros for £2, £4, £8 and £16 by doubling. Then ask them to work out other amounts from these by addition, subtraction and multiplying and dividing by ten.

£1 = €1.26 

£2 = €2.52 

£4 = €5.04 

£8 = €10.08

£16 = €20.16

£10 = €12.60

£12 = €15.12

£28 = €35.28

A small project like this will reinforce number work and apply this to the measures of length, money, temperature and time. If you haven’t done this before, why not give it a go?

If you are a teacher that carries out small projects like this that link mathematics with geography or other subjects, please let us know! We would love to hear and share your ideas. Email the maths team or tweet us @risingstarsedu

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