Scientists in Schools

The magic of maths

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  • Susan Goddard, Elsternwick Primary School, Brighton, VIC
  • Trish Campbell, University of Melbourne

Trish Campbell enjoys finding new maths activities for the Year 3 and 4 students she visits weekly at Elsternwick Primary. She gets ideas for mathematical magic tricks from the internet and Maths and Stats by Email, discussing with students what interests them most about maths.

Having fun with ciphers

Each week Trish starts her visit with a maths magic trick to grab their interest or a brainteaser quiz for the older students. One of the most successful activities called Adam Ant and the Cake had students learn about infinite series by folding a strip of paper. By the time they had finished, they understood the concept of adding an infinite series and getting a finite answer.

Susan agrees teachers can find it challenging to generate curiosity for maths in the classroom. So PhD candidate Trish has used activities to build enthusiasm during maths lessons like estimating Pi by measuring the diameter of everyday objects, using a 'mind-reading' trick to teach binary numbers and asking number questions to guess an unknown number. After the session on binary numbers, the students were trying it on their friends in the playground!

The response from students is immense enthusiasm with one student announcing "I always love walking in on a Monday morning looking forward to an awesome maths session". Trish says "It has been greatly rewarding to see the students enjoying the activities and learning how much fun maths can be". If only maths could be this much fun for every student in every school!

Trish shows Susan the next maths trick