21st November 2014 at 00:00

It's not easy to teach functional maths to further education students. Most of them weren't interested in the subject during their 12 years at school, so switching them on to it now is a big challenge. I quickly realised that I needed to make my lessons stimulating, or even fun.

This was particularly true for fractions: I wanted to make the lesson practical. I remembered a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci called The Vitruvian Man, which suggests that all humans have the same proportions.

I decided to get my learners to measure each other and investigate how much truth there was in this. After a bit of research, I was able to put together an information sheet with a series of facts about the image. For example, from the top of the head to below the chin is one-eighth of the height of the man.

The lesson started with the learning outcome: to be able to calculate common fractions. This was followed by a short discussion and a quick presentation about fractions to determine what the learners already knew about the topic.

Then I explained the task and put the students into pairs to begin measuring each another, calculating the fractions and determining whether da Vinci was correct in his calculations. More able learners were given complex fractions to calculate, and I moved around the room, supporting those who needed extra assistance.

The whole class was thoroughly engaged in solving the problem. They all developed a sound understanding of fractions, as shown by the discussions they had and the work they produced. I left the class believing that maybe I could teach maths after all.

So, is there any truth in The Vitruvian Man? In short, no - unless my learners are just an oddly shaped bunch.

Daniel Williams is a teaching and learning coach at a further education college in the Midlands