Maths - Divide and conquer

7th September 2012 at 01:00
Pirate gangs compete to solve number problems and win booty

Why do American pirates have both ears pierced?

A good question and one that perplexed me from the moment the star joke teller in my Year 4 class asked. We had just embarked on a pirate-themed half-term of learning and since pirates fire the imagination of most children, the enthusiasm within the class was palpable.

We began to link all subjects possible, but when it came to maths, bar the obvious compass directions and counting the pieces of eight, it just didn't seem that the two went together. But after watching the juniors playing tag in the yard, the connection dawned on me: maths, pirates and a sprinkling of PE.

After a week of mental maths strategies, I took the next maths lesson out of the classroom. The children were delighted at the opportunity for an extra PE lesson, so, armed with five different coloured pirate swag bags and a collection of gold coins, we headed into the hall.

I split the class up into six mixed-ability groups and explained to them that they were rival gangs of pirates. They came up with their pirate gang names, and I allocated them a colour and a swag bag and began to explain the rules.

Five PE mats were placed around the hall. Each one became a "number island" and was allocated a function (addition, subtraction, division and multiplication). The island in the middle of the hall was for "super maths". At one end of the hall was a PE bench otherwise known as the pirate ship's dungeon.

Next, one of the six pirate gangs was called into the middle and given bibs. When the whistle blew, the pirate gang had 60 seconds to tag as many of their rivals as possible. The number islands were safe bases. Tagged pirates were sent to the dungeon and when time was up, those left on the number islands were left to answer questions based on their island's function. If a question was answered correctly, a gold coin (two for a super maths question) was placed in the swag bag and the pirate was freed. Get it wrong and they were doomed to the dungeon.

The game carried on, with each pirate gang having two opportunities to catch their rivals and for the rest to gather as many coins as possible. Once the game was complete, we went back to class and counted up the booty. House points were awarded and the winning team gained an early playtime. A fun lesson, applied learning and a class of happy pirates to boot - result!

Oh, and in case you were wondering why American pirates have both ears pierced, it's because it only costs a buccaneer.

Chris Fenton is an associate headteacher and freelance publisher at Pearson Education

What else?

Pupils will be counting their loot with angelinarobinson's treasure chest multiplication and division activity. bit.lyOBQxqC

Or for some simple counting, try bevevans22's treasure hunt board game. bit.lyQIk0o9.

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