Shapes In The Environment: Digital Tools In The Numeracy Hour

Green Park Station, is a little off the beaten tourist track. No longer in use for its designed purpose this attractive building is now home to a local farmer's market, houses a number of small specialist retail outlets, and is part of the local Sainsbury's car park. However despite its aesthetic and retail therapy appeal it is as a mathematical resource, that I was drawn out of doors one damp Saturday afternoon, and before a leisurely shop and a coffee in the Brasserie, I wandered around armed with a digital camera to snap these images.

It has been interesting to engage recently with posts around the use of ICT and digital media within the Literacy Hour, so I thought I would turn my attentions towards thinking about the potential some of the tools explored might hold for the Mathematics Framework.

Using and applying has a central dimension within the new mathematics framework, and the recent NCETM research digest mentioned in a previous post, draws our gaze toward the valuable role that talk has to play, through class discussion, collaborative group work and guided investigational activity in developing and rehearsing processes while contextualising the use and application of mathematical vocabulary in context.

The real world context of Green Park, is alive with shapes. Its curving semi-circular central roof, supported on cylndrical pillars, presents the impression of a majestic semi cylindrical covering to what was once the train shed. While a closer look shows the glass roof itself not to be curved, but made up of rectangular panes of glass, rising to an apex, that makes it triangular in appearance. Wooden wall panels made up of tesselated rectangles, cross braced to divide the irregular quadrilaterals still further into right angle and equilateral or are they isoceles triangles. Supporting structures from the pillars create triangular openings with curved sides, arcs and to the sides of these are mounted spherical lamps. Windows form rectangular openings in the fascade of a largley cuboidal building, divided into smaller rectangles the window frames in turn hold still smaller square panes of glass. Vertical, upright girders form perpendicular supports riveted to horizontal beams which rise parallel to their neighbours. The central roof, and facias also present yet more tesselating and symetrical patterns to be explored.

Using the IWB and/or printouts of the images there is enormous potential to frame discussions around the properties of shapes. From simple shape hunts to the investigation of congruence, and shapes within shapes, from identifying lines of symmetry to describing and reasoning about the forms evident in the photographs. Extending and developing this with students themselves we might create local shape trails, using digital cameras to help develop not only their observational skills but encouraging them to focus on the structures around them and their features in the landscape.

There is an increasing catologue of ready made Excel, and flash or object based tools, available on the New Mathematics Framework Website, sorted and grouped by strand and unit, for use with the whiteboard or by students in the ICT suite. In the Literacy Framework there is an increasing focus on how digital technologies might be used to support learning outcomes practically as extentions and alternative ways of presenting activities developed within the and from the Literacy Hour. Perhaps activities such as this might be one way of beginning to see that ICT can be used in a similar way for the presentation, exploration and representation of mathematical ideas.

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