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Hands-on tasks + engagement = successful maths

Jessica Clifton from LEGO Education discusses how we can establish an enthusiasm towards maths

Posted by Hannah Oakman | April 29, 2016 | Teaching

According to Andreas Schleicher from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), maths in the UK is ‘superficial’ and ‘overcomplicated’, and is a subject that focuses on “memorisation and learning facts, rather than mathematical concepts”.

To avoid pupils losing interest in a subject when it comes to A-Levels, there needs to be a much greater emphasis on understanding it and how it can be applied to real-life situations. 

To capture children’s interest in the subject from an early age, maths needs to be a more hands-on, engaging lesson where pupils are encouraged and motivated to think, solve problems and understand the purpose of mathematical concepts. Setting them creative tasks using digital and practical resources will strengthen their understanding and allow them to persevere with more challenging tasks.

Maths surrounds us every day, so using examples of real-life situations will help pupils understand the purpose and where they can apply their skills

Through fun and creative activities, pupils not only gain a conceptual understanding of how various mathematical notions can be linked, but teachers can incorporate cross-curricular activities to help them develop a range of abilities including problem solving, vocabulary, reading, thinking, listening and speaking skills.

It’s about making abstract maths problems more tangible, motivating pupils to come up with solutions to challenges, and persevere with tasks, both individually or as a team.

There are so many ways to boost enthusiasm in maths, here are just a few examples to help spark an interest.

Get theatrical

Ask pupils to recreate scenarios in the classroom. For example, set up a ‘grocery store’ with different priced labels and special offers. Then set challenges to explore concepts such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Set the scene

Tell a story at the beginning of the lesson and ask pupils to consider a number of situations. For example, in LEGO Education’s MoreToMaths set, pupils are given a scenario involving a trip to the zoo; there are snakes of different sizes and colours. Pupils will need to investigate similarities and differences, calculate lengths and solve problems to the tasks, including the creation of snakes using a set amount of bricks.

Use real examples

Maths surrounds us every day, so using examples of real-life situations will help pupils understand the purpose and where they can apply their skills. For example, using fractions or angles to create equal shares of a birthday cake, using division skills to work out how much each person will need to pay from the total food bill, or calculating how many miles per hour a car would need to travel to get to a destination by a certain time, taking into consideration stops for petrol etc.

It’s all fun and games

Make maths a fun and creative lesson for pupils. Using familiar examples like LEGO attracts an initial interest from pupils, due to the association of it being something many have come across before in a fun context outside the classroom. How about playing multiplication bingo, creating graphs using jelly beans, or using play-dough to demonstrate fractions?

Through a kinaesthetic and hands-on approach, pupils are able to consolidate their mathematical understanding whilst being able to visually represent and interpret problems. Only then will we be able to encourage pupils to further their education in the subject, and boost the number of engineers and mathematicians over the next few years.

April is Maths Awareness month, giving teachers the chance to really push the subject and highlight its purpose, and exciting those pupils considering a career in the ever-growing STEM industry.

For more on Lego Education visit



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