School Maths Trips - Calculating the Benefit

What are your most important memories from when you were at school? For most people, this list will include a school trip or residential experience, and it will probably stick around in your mind forever. As a teacher it can be tough to arrange a school trip, and it can take a lot of hard work battling with admin, forms, health and safety, budgets and school leadership.In some schools it will be easier than others to arrange, however in every school organising a school trip will have an amazing impact on your pupils and will be well worth it. What may surprise you, is that there are lots of exciting maths focused trips which can be organised, it doesn’t need to be the preserve of the P.E. or drama departments.

Ideas for maths trips

When most teachers were at school themselves maths trips simply didn’t exist, so it might be a bit hard to know where to start. Here are some ideas to get you going:

1. Your nearest university

Most universities with maths/science departments run workshops or events for school children. You should find out about their outreach or schools team and then get put on their mailing list. One of the great things about university trips is that they are often free apart from transport and lunch costs. You will also be inspiring your pupils about higher education in general. They may also have events for sixth formers such as residential maths conferences. (The type of trip the teacher doesn’t actually need to attend!)

2. Science festivals

The number of science festivals in the UK is astonishing. Some are huge like the Manchester Science Festival, however you will also find lots of great events at some of the smaller scale festivals. Take a look at this list of festivals in the UK. Once again you will find that many events are free which means that it will be a much lower cost option for your school. In most science festivals there will be maths focused events, as well as cross-curricular options such as workshops on space or physics. It is also worth mentioning the Big Bang Fair and Big Bang Regional Fairs, which are packed full of exhibitors (including maths activities!)

3. Museums that have an obvious maths connection

There are some museums which have an obvious link to maths and science. Most have science as the predominant theme, however you should contact their education team to find out about any maths specific workshops or maths trails around their museum. Here is a comprehensive list of UK science centres. If you are prepared to travel, (or you happen to be close by!) then you might want to consider visiting Bletchley Park which was home to the WW2 codebreakers led by Alan Turing. The Science Museum (London) also has a new maths gallery (mainly focused on history), as well as a hands on science gallery.

4. Museums that don’t have an obvious maths connection

Lots of museums and attractions really want to make the effort when it comes to visiting school groups. This means that some of them offer maths based activities, even though they aren’t a science museum. For example Legoland Windsor offer a Maths and Computing Robotics workshop for KS3. The British Museum also offers a teacher led maths challenge around the museum. Therefore you should pick a list of desirable museums and do some investigation into what they offer.

5. Maths trails

A maths trail can combine map reading with answering questions about maths in context, and it is a great way to get pupils exploring while doing some mathematics. There are lots of them available, including Blenheim Palace and Birmingham Botanical Gardens. If there isn’t one on offer then you could visit the attraction in advance and make your own. This will mean that the questions are specially tailored to your pupils and that you know that everything is up to date. Any sensible teacher will ring a location in advance and check that the trail is still up to date – nothing would be more frustrating than out of date clues!

6. Maths Inspiration

Imagine bringing an interactive maths show to a theatre near you. If you haven’t already heard of it, then Maths Inspiration is a lively maths show either aimed at year 9/10 or year 11/12. Sometimes it can be hard to find trips for these older age groups, but Maths Inspiration is loved by teenagers throughout the country. It also includes speakers from industry, meaning that pupils will hopefully come away loving maths that little bit more as well as seeing how it could be part of their future career.

7. Further Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP)

The FMSP runs a whole host of activities nationwide aimed at KS4 and KS5. From enrichment days to revision conferences, you should check out the offering in your local area.

8. UKMT Team Maths Challenges

Lots of schools enter pupils for the individual UKMT maths challenges which are sat in school. The UKMT also runs Team Challenges, some of them joint with the FMSP. This is a great school trip to start out with, as you will only be taking a team of four pupils.

9. Further Afield

If you are feeling brave and your school is behind you, then you might consider organising a trip internationally. How about MoMath in New York or the Mathematikum in Germany? These are two of the world’s best maths museums and they are well worth a visit.

10. Bring the trip to you

Sometimes it can be really challenging to organise a school trip. A great first step might be to organise a speaker or hands on activity to visit your school. If this is successful, it will demonstrate your capability to organise an out of school activity and it could be a good springboard to organising trips in the future. Here are some ideas for in-school speakers.

11. Maths is everywhere

For the creative types out there who are willing to put in a bit more effort, it is important to remember that maths is everywhere. This means you can pick your location and then show your pupils where the maths is. Some teachers have run activities on the beach – perhaps drawing giant bar charts in the sand with their pupils. There is also the classic visit to a theme park with your A-Level Mechanics students. You might even do a cross-curricular maths and history trip to somewhere like Warwick Castle where you could look at the forces behind their giant trebuchet. Once you become a confident trip planner, you can let your imagination run wild (as long as you can get your headteacher onside!)