The leaves have changed colour, the weather is chilly and jumpers are out in full force. And Bonfire Night is upon us! While Guy Fawkes and fireworks have always been fertile sources for art and history projects, you may not realise the opportunities it provides for enjoying some autumnal maths activities.
These are my favourite Bonfire Night related activities, covering a wide range of primary maths topics from angles and measurement to division.
1. Measure the firework angle
Create your own Bonfire Night maths worksheets by drawing a selection of diagonal lines on the page. Get pupils to measure the angles that the fireworks travel away from the “ground”. You could extend the learning by asking them to calculate the missing angles or make their own questions for other pupils.
2. Distance the fireworks travel
Fireworks can provide a good chance for you to cover measurement and conversion problems, which are important aspects of KS2 maths...particularly on a larger scale. This can be good for reinforcing the importance of using different units of measurement where relevant. E.g. Why not create a worksheet with the distance the firework has travelled in cms and encourage the pupils to understand it makes much more sense to have it in metres?
Convert into kms to link to decimals. Practice calculating averages or revise addition and subtraction to work out total distances and differences between each firework. Extend pupils by getting them to convert to imperial measures.
3. Fireworks colour by numbers
Find a fireworks colour by numbers sheet but replace the numbers in the picture with calculations. When the answer matches a number in the key, pupils colour it that colour. E.g. in the picture below, you could replace 11 with 54 - 43 = ?. This gives pupils a colourful picture to take home but also gets them practising their maths. You can easily differentiate by creating different versions with harder calculations which give the same answer.
4. Bonfire Night ticket problem solving
Always a nice way to link in topics with maths - give pupils a money related challenge. If you’re lucky enough to be having a bonfire celebration in school you can link this to that.
e.g. The Bonfire Night costs £2.50 to attend. How many tickets can you buy with £10?
James, Sam and Nick want to buy 3 tickets each to Bonfire Night. How much will this cost them?
5. Plan a Bonfire Night project
As a larger project you could get the class to think about everything that goes into planning a Bonfire Night. You could consider:
budget and spending
planning how much food to buy
how much you would spend on fireworks
what to charge for entry
This is a great way to get pupils to see how maths is important in real world contexts.
6. Autumn leave sweeping
More of a general autumnal activity but great for linking with area. Get pupils to calculate the total area of grass, road or pavement that will need sweeping to clear off all the leaves that have fallen from the trees. You can make this as practical as you wish.
If you have a school field it would be great to get outside, take measurements and get pupils seeing how area works on a large scale. And everyone loves the chance to play with some autumn leaves! Otherwise, create diagrams and explain the context. It’s just a different way of posing an area question but helps bring the maths to life.
7. Temperature - bonfire
If you’ve been looking at temperature and/or negative numbers, the bonfire can provide inspiration for work on calculating differences. You could write a selection of different problems and easily differentiate using different numbers or excluding negative numbers for pupils who still need a bit more work with them.
E.g. “The temperature outside is -2 degrees centigrade, by the bonfire it is 20 degrees.
How much has the temperature increased by next to the bonfire?”
8. Data collection
Great activity to reinforce concepts from KS1. Discuss the different types of fireworks with your pupils and put them into different categories. Pupils can either create their own tally chart or you can give them one to take home which they can use at a fireworks display. They can fill in the tally chart to show how many of each firework they have seen. Alternatively, watch a video of a fireworks display in class - a great way of including all pupils if not everyone has the chance to go.
9. Bonfire Night history and division
One perhaps for the higher ability pupils thanks to Asevers on TES Resources. Incorporate cross-curricular learning by adding historical facts into your Bonfire Night maths questions. The questions below include a couple of interesting facts which will not only help their historical knowledge, but also get them started on solving problems that involve dividing 3 digit numbers by 2 digit numbers.
For more on this see https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/bonfire-night-level-5-division-6448949
10. Reasoning and problem solving with fireworks
Another TES resources find. Ac2020 has some nice examples of questions increasing in difficulty from I have 3 Catherine Wheels and 5 Rockets. How many fireworks do I have altogether? https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/bonfire-night-maths-6004662
11. Mindfulness amidst the fireworks
Finally, it's time to take a few minutes to refocus - although not strictly maths, this one still comes in useful. With so much excitement surrounding Bonfire Night and this time of year in general, you may find your pupils could benefit from a mindfulness session to help relax and improve their concentration. Help combat your pupils' stress with a mindfulness session that can be done as a class right before Bonfire Night.
Start off by collecting a number of autumnal objects, such as leaves, rocks, sticks or anything else that might be interesting to hold. Give each pupil an object and ask them to spend a minute just noticing what it feels like in their hand. They can feel the texture, if their object is hard or soft and the shape of the object. Afterwards, ask the children to describe what they felt. With bigger groups, pair children off to take turns completing the exercise together.
Ellie McCann is a primary school teacher working with the maths team at Third Space Learning.