Phone a friend

11th April 2008 at 01:00

Many pupils find mathematics difficult or uninteresting because it can feel quite abstract.

But the real world is full of mathematics and it is often when the subject is injected with relevance that it becomes interesting and fun.

With this in mind, I wrote a scheme of work around mobile phones for pupils in Year 5 and above while teaching in Hillingdon.

It was such a success that I have continued to use it as an adviser in the same borough.

The mobile phone market is saturated with special offers, with companies aggressively competing with each other. It is only the customer who is prepared to do a little groundwork who will seek out the best deal, when looking for mobile phones and in other areas of life.

The activity focuses around the need to find the best mobile phone deal from four competing companies for an imaginary customer, Jo.

I have used the pupils' requirements as an illustration, and their varying needs frequently result in a different deal being selected.

After discussing terminology and Jo's typical phone usage, the "statements game" is a good group starter activity that promotes speaking and listening.

It involves pupils putting different statements in order of importance, such as: "We want a deal with the lowest peak tariff" and "We want line rental costs to be included". The groups of pupils get a poster each that explains the different companies' offers.

They discuss them and present their findings to the class, with those streaking ahead illustrating their findings with graphs or charts.

At the end of the lesson, everyone compares options and comes to a decision about which phone is the best value for our customer.

It is fascinating to see how many pupils are attracted by tempting offers of free phones, only to realise they will be stung in the long term.

Jean Knapp is a mathematics adviser for Hillingdon local authority in west London.

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