Shake a leg to explain mathematical concepts in an engaging way
Almost 120 years ago, Marius Petipa and his assistant Lev Ivanov choreographed a version of Swan Lake that most productions of the ballet since 1895 have been based on. The geometric designs were one of the choreography's most striking features, and the process of creating geometrical shapes through dance is alive and well today in my maths lessons.
I often use movement to illustrate mathematical concepts in lessons, but this time I went a little further, exploring the link between the sequence of triangular and square numbers.
Petipa choreographed ballet by arranging chess pieces on a board, and in similar fashion I organised the patterns in my notes before I entered the dance space. A technique I don't think Petipa used, however, was to hang laminated numbers around the necks of the dancers. I did this with my two classes of 11- and 12-year-olds so that I could keep track of them and make sure they were all in the right place. If you try out this lesson, I highly recommend this strategy.
The idea behind the dance is to illustrate how two consecutive triangular numbers make a square. It is in three parts. First, the students form a sequence of triangular numbers in groups of 1, 3, 6, 10 and 15.
Next, consecutive triangles come together: 3 and 6 make a square of 9; 10 and 15 make a square of 25. They then split into their triangles and reform: 1 and 3 make 4; 6 and 10 become 16.
Finally, all 36 students create a square. They peel off one row and column at a time to demonstrate descending square numbers: 36 to 25, 16, 9, 4, until the last dancer, number 1, is left by herself.
The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.
Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.