Give them wings

29th June 2007 at 01:00
Using aerodynamics to create a maths project with wind tunnels and flight simulators gave pupils' skills a lift. Nick Morrison saw motivation take off

Designing and making a wing for a model aeroplane was one school's way of showing how maths can be relevant - and may also have inspired some children to consider careers in aviation.

Year 9 pupils at Bay House School, in Gosport, Hampshire, took up the project with gusto, testing different wings in their own wind tunnel, which they built themselves, to work out which was the most aerodynamic.

The pupils put a range of maths skills to the test. They analysed the data, averaged the results for the different wings and worked out the perimeters and areas of each design. They looked at how the findings were affected.

The data was turned into graphs, including time distance and acceleration, and the children costed each one.

"It was an excellent project for understanding the point of data analysis and how we use it," says maths teacher Ryan Peet. "And it meant we weren't asked: 'Why are we doing this?' which is a common question in maths. They could see why these mathematical ideas are important, and some of them are now interested in careers in the field."

The project was funded by Hampshire local authority and the Training and Development Agency for Schools, with help from Microsoft, which also provided a flight simulator.

The use of ICT meant it was a rare cross-curricular maths project, with aerodynamics specialists coming to talk to the pupils. The wings were tested in front of parents and Microsoft experts at the school, where Ian Potter, the headteacher, is chair of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust steering group for maths and computing.

"Pupils got a reason to be doing maths, and now they're more interested in the subject and its place in the real world," says Ryan Free resources from the TES Centurions' warm-up: Roman numerals data activities to download free from the TES Resource Bank at

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