Just wild about Harry

Kevin Harcombe finds young Potter is simply wizard at maths

HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE. By J K Rowling. Bloomsbury Children's Books pound;4.99 (pbk), pound;10.99

What it's about

What's a lad to do when he is raised by an aunt and uncle who make him live under the stairs? In Harry Potter's case you become an ace at Quidditch (sort of polo on broomsticks), and do battle with fearsome baddies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But then, Harry is a wizard, as you will know if you have not spent the past three years on Mars.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first of a proposed seven Harry Potter books, with number four (as yet untitled) coming on July 8. Some Muggles (non-wizard types) dismiss these popular books as the literary offspring of a coupling of Blyton and Tolkien. But this one is simply a well-written school story with magical knobs on.

How to use it Mathematics

* Design a board game, including bonuses (e.g. "win at Quidditch, move forward 4") and penalties (e.g. "Fluffy (Harry's friend Hagrid's pet dragon) corners you - return to start"). Use two dice. For an even total, move half the number thrown. For an odd total, move double the number shown.

* In Quidditch you score 10 points every time the quaffle (one of the balls in play) goes through a hoop, 15 times that for catching the more elusive snitch. The score in the first game is 170-60. Estimate then calculate what the score would have been if it was, say, 7 points for a hoop and 15 times that for the snitch?

* The pupils at Hogwarts study astronomy, herbology, history of magic, charms, transfiguration, potions and defence against the dark arts. Make a timetable (eight x 40 minute periods per day) in which three of these subjects each take up 20 per cent of the available time and the other four have 10 per cent each. How much time (in hours and minutes) is spent on each subject in a week? Over a 10-week term? Over three 10-week terms?

* Conduct a classyearschool poll of favourite characters in the book. Present the rsults as a graph.

* Adapt these "real life" problems according to ability: a) If Harry's Nimbus 2000 broomstick travels 100 metres in 3 seconds, how far could it travel in one minute? How long would it take to travel 5 kilometres?

b) Three wands are 15cm, 20cm and 22cm long. What is their total length?

c) Hagrid's dragon's egg weighs about 60 grams. How much would five dragon's eggs weigh?

d) There are 45 Every-Flavour Beans in a box. How many are left if you eat 18? How many if you divide them into three boxes?

e) In wizard money there are 29 Knuts to a Sickle and 17 Sickles to a Galleon. Construct a graph to convert Galleons to Sickles, or Knuts to Sickles. Use it to find out what you get for 3 Galleons, 40 Galleons, 68 Sickles, etc.


* The characters in the book have apt names such as Draco Malfoy the bully or Argus Filch the caretaker. Devise character names (e.g. Hilary Healquick for a doctor).

* What was in the first letter sent to Harry? Write it as if you were Dumbledore, the Hogwarts principal, telling Harry about the school.

* Write the advertising copy for the Nimbus 2000 broomstick in the style of a car ad. Rewrite and record as a radio jingle.

* Dumbledore discovered the 12 uses of dragon's blood. What might they be?

* Create an acrostic for Hogwarts: H for Hagrid, the Keeper of the Keys, O for the Owl postal system, and so on.

* Write Harry's diary entry for the train journey to Hogwarts or his glimpse into the Mirror of Erised.

* Write a Hogwarts kit list for new pupils.


* Search the Internet for information on author J K Rowling.


* Professor McGonagall teaches transfiguration at Hogwarts, changing her desk into a pig to demonstrate theories. Perhaps a Transfiguration Hour is, even as I write, being pencilled in as a future DfEE initiative.

Investigate how materials can be changed in non-magical ways: dissolving, melting, boiling, freezing.

Kevin Harcombe is headteacher of Redlands primary school, Fareham, Hampshire

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