Links to the real world are crucial in mathematics, after all, it is all around us! Sometimes we teach abstract ideas with no real concept, lacking both the understanding and the interest of pupils. If we can make some kind of link to how they will use the maths, the topic becomes seemingly more interesting.

Today in my high achieving year 7 class, we were mastering short division. I asked the question of converting 77/4 into a decimal to many blank faces. I stopped to ask why we might do this. Hands shot up, suggestions given, but none of the students reached the answer I was looking for. I used an example of going into B&Q. My explanation continued “would I ask someone for 77/4cm of wood? Could they cut that easily for me?” To which many of my students replied “no” with the realisation of what I was going to say. “But could I ask for 19.25cm of wood?” A sea of nods occurred in the class. I explained that we do not find 77/4 on a measuring stick or tape, but we would find 19.25cm. This made the questions applicable to real life, teaching a skill that they just may use in everyday life.

Another example comes from my year 10 class, who have GCSE target grades of around 1-2. This class sometimes lacks interest or understanding, causing a change in behaviour which can become challenging. To end every lesson, I have started to create a real life exam style question for them. This puts application into what they have been taught that lesson, and seems to capture the interest much more knowing that the ideas are not just abstract. For example, for the area and perimeter of rectangles and compound shapes, we have looked at carpeting a floor and enclosing some giraffes in a field, along with how many giraffes can fit into that field, all good points for discussion. The interest gives me a clear indication that I need to include as many similar problems as possible to solidify understanding and also to make the maths relatable and motivating for pupils of all levels.

Throughout the rest of my teaching career, I plan to continue with real life examples. From precious experiences, they have been the most engaging points of the lessons that I have taught as students are eager to apply their knowledge wherever possible.

By Demi Hatahet