These activities get pupils to explore innovative ways to approach maths and to consider their ethical standpoint.

This week’s primary enrichment activity refers to ‘Pi Day’, getting pupils to explore mathematics and apply it within a global context.

This week’s secondary enrichment activity encourages pupils to consider their ethical positions, drawing on the recent controversy over a trick involving an elephant.

***Primary Enrichment***

KS2: Mathematics. Breadth of study.

During the key stage, pupils should be taught the knowledge, skills and understanding through: Activities that extend their understanding of the number system to include integers, fractions and decimals

3.14 and counting

‘Pi Day’, the day when mathematicians celebrate the mathematical ratio that has caused puzzlement and frustration for millennia, has been and gone for another year. Pi represents the number you get when you divide the distance around a circle (its circumference) by the distance across (the diameter). Using a string and a ruler you can quickly measure that pi must be just over three-and-an-eighth (3.125). With more precise measuring, you could increase the accuracy of your calculation and narrow it down to 3.14. If you have some amazing string you may even narrow it down to 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971.

An activity for your pupils to consider and discuss:

Maths puzzles can be serious matters, delightful pastimes or grinding brain agony, depending on your viewpoint. While Pi Day (14th March) has passed for this year another challenge, however, waits to be addressed. The real challenge of mathematics is not in answering the mathematical problems, it is in the setting of the problems. Establish your school as the place to be if you want to take a mathematical world title. You will need to plan the event carefully, have a publicity and media strategy, invite judges for the competitions, ensure that you have venues, accommodation and food for all the people taking part in the maths competition at your school. All of those things are manageable and relatively straightforward. The one thing, however, that is a real challenge is the setting of the maths challenges and questions that competitors must undertake and be tested by. You will need to get together with some serious mathematicians in your school to set the most difficult mathematical problems they can devise.

Summary

Establishing your school as a national or international centre for mathematical competitions.

Going further

  • The entry date for applying to take part in the next Junior United Kingdom Mathematics Trust Maths Challenges is Thursday 1 May. You may wish to enter a team. Details of the challenge are available through the website below.
  • The rough ratio of pi (3.14) gives us the date for Pi Day − March 14. In mathematical terms what would ‘27.4’, ‘6.12’ or ‘7.1’ be famous for?
  • Pi Day is also the birthday of Albert Einstein. Can you discover if a famous mathematician was born on your birthday?

The pi news story can be found here.

Mathematical competitions (UK) found here.

United Kingdom Mathematics Trust here.

Learning and teaching Scotland.

Developing mathematical thinking From the early stages onwards, children and young people should experience success in mathematics and develop the confidence to take risks, ask questions and explore alternative solutions without fear of being wrong. They should enjoy exploring and applying mathematical concepts to understand and solve problems, explaining their thinking and presenting their solutions to others in a variety of ways.


International Baccalaureate. Primary years programme. Curriculum framework

Five essential elements Five essential elements − concepts, knowledge, skills, attitudes, action − are incorporated into this framework, so that students are given the opportunity to:

  • gain knowledge that is relevant and of global significance
  • develop an understanding of concepts, which allows them to make connections throughout their learning
  • acquire transdisciplinary and disciplinary skills
  • develop attitudes that will lead to international-mindedness
  • take action as a consequence of their learning.

***Secondary Enrichment***

KS14-19: Knowledge, skills and understanding. Learning about religion.

Students should be taught to:

  • investigate, study and interpret significant religious, philosophical and ethical issues, including the study of religious and spiritual experience, in light of their own sense of identity, experience and commitments
  • think rigorously and present coherent, widely informed and detailed arguments about beliefs, ethics, values and issues, drawing well-substantiated conclusions.

Ethics, elephants and bubbles

The Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, USA has cancelled a stunt to promote the annual ‘Bubblefest’ in which the bubble artist Fan Yang was aiming to set a record for the largest living land mammal to be encased in a bubble. Fan Yang was going to attempt to surround an 8,800-pound elephant in a giant soapy bubble for some 10 seconds. Critics protesting against the event described it as being ‘cruel and frivolous’. ‘We wanted it to be good, clean family fun, so we’re taking away the part that seemed negative,’ spokeswoman for the Discovery Science Center, Julie Smith, reportedly told the LA Times. In an online vote about whether the intended ‘elephant in a bubble’ event should take place three comments are noteworthy:

When asked: ‘What do you think of the elephant-in-a-bubble stunt?’

Three people, among others, replied:


‘Sounds interesting. I’d like to see it.’


‘It’s another way to educate children about elephants. I’d like to take my kids.’

‘It’s an exploitative sideshow. I would not go.’

Some questions for your pupils to consider and discuss:

1. What do you think about the proposed event?

2.

What does your answer say about your ethical values? Any discussion about the ethical issues involved in our species’ treatment of other living creatures is difficult. Our relationship with animals is very much based on emotion and to a certain extent compromised by our historic and current treatment of animals as a source of medicine, food and clothing.

  • Is there a rational reason for treating animals ethically?
  • What benefits do we enjoy from treating animals ethically?
  • What benefits do we enjoy from treating animals in an unethical way?
  • What gives our species the right to dictate to animals how they are treated and what is done with them?
  • An animal’s life is as valuable as that of a human being.
  • How would you defend this viewpoint?

The work of Peter Singer is of interest in any debate about the rights of animals.

Summary

Why one should not surround elephants in soap bubbles.

Going further

What, if anything, could you replace the elephant with as the object in a giant bubble and make the same scientific points about bubbles and the physics of surfaces? Develop your own super-rich bubble mixture and experiment to see how large an object you can encase in a bubble. One could equally consider what is the smallest bubble that could be produced and what could be put inside such a bubble.

The full news story can be read here.

Religion and ethics for more information click here.

Explore the ideas of Peter Singer here.

Explore the ideas of John Stuart Mill here.


Learning and teaching. Scotland.

Learning through religious and moral education enables children and young people to:

  • develop a knowledge and understanding of Christianity and other world religions and recognise religion as an important expression of human experience
  • explore moral values such as wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity
  • investigate and understand the responses which religions can offer to questions about the nature and meaning of life
  • develop the skills of reflection, discernment, critical thinking, and deciding how to act when making moral decisions
  • develop their beliefs, attitudes, moral values and practices through personal search, discovery and critical evaluation, and make a positive difference to the world by putting their beliefs and values into action.

International Baccalaureate. Middle Years Programme curriculum

The overall philosophy of the programme (Middle years) is expressed through three fundamental concepts that support and strengthen all areas of the curriculum. These concepts are based on:

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2008

About the author: John Senior is the author of Enrichment Activties for G&T Pupils. He is a teacher with 26 years’ experience of teaching Gifted and Talented children, working with parents and carers as a consultant on high ability, and peer mentoring.

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