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By Andy Lickley on

Making maths connections on National Numeracy Day

The 18th of May is national numeracy day which gives us an opportunity to reflect on and share how our Science Museum Group museums have been working to inspire and support maths engagement.

National numeracy day is a day to celebrate everything numbers and how we use them in everyday life. The day is designed to encourage people to feel curious about numbers, explore how they can benefit them in their daily life and give them confidence to develop and improve numeracy skills.

We are working hard across the Science Museum Group to help show this to our visitors by embedding maths into our schools and families offer as stated in our learning strategy.

Informal learning centres have a fantastic opportunity to influence people’s opinions around maths as school only takes up 20% of our waking hours which means there’s a lot of learning that can be done outside of the classroom setting.

Experience with Maths

Our research shows that maths is a subject that lots of people enjoy at school but there are a lot of people who dread seeing it on their timetables. The feelings we have around a subject at school are often carried forward into our adult life.

Many of us think of maths as addition, subtraction, times tables, fractions, and algebra. In reality this is just the tip of the iceberg of what the subject is. Maths influences and plays an important part in the world around us.

Changing of opinion

An internal training course around maths engagement for our Science Museum Group colleagues has been developed to help reduce anxieties around maths and show its relevance in the real world and our museums. This work has allowed us to reflect a lot on maths and it was amazing to see our opinions towards maths change throughout the development process.

Maths has helped create the world around us and whilst the school maths is part of it, it was surprising how much maths plays a role in the world. For example, budgeting for our weekly shopping or deciding the time it would take to travel to our destination. These are all maths skills, but we are often so focussed on what we learnt in school we don’t always realise it.

The takeaway learning is ultimately that we are all using maths skills everyday without realising we’re using them.

Maths engagement resources

Thumbnail pictures of two videos and two object hunts
A selection of SMG maths resources

We have developed a wide range of activities to help build confidence and excitement for maths ranging from hands-on activities, 3D objects, image banks and object hunts which can be used by teachers in the classroom and at home with families.

Supporting maths engagement on a museum visit

Maths isn’t often a motivation or driver for a museum or out of school visit, yet Mathematicians’ passion, creativity and problem-solving skills have provided solutions to real-world problems throughout history. From space exploration, computing technology, medical discoveries, engineering feats and more, museums provide excellent opportunities to explore how maths has changed and enriched our lives.

Some museum objects, such as abacuses, compasses and measuring scales are most easily associated with maths. But many more objects also have maths at their heart, from their design to their manufacture and distribution. Our Maths in the museum information shares some ideas to encourage mathematical thinking and talking, and how to explore core maths topics throughout museums and beyond.

Further reading

We have a number of previous blogs which have shared how we have developed many of our maths engagement activities and experiences to help connect maths both to our museums and to the world around us.

Maths in our museums:

A photograph taken from the front of the Mathematics: The winton gallery at the science museum
Mathematics: The Winton Gallery at the Science Museum

When you think of the museums in the Science Museum Group maths doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Depending on the museum you may think of science, technology, or engineering. Maths is embedded in all our museum objects and this blog helps you see where that maths is.

Maths engagement: helping people connect with maths:

We want to show how maths links to everyday lives this blog shows how we can use our reflection engagement tools to do just that.

Our learning resources have been developed to support all ages and STEM subjects. Here at the Science Museum Group  we’ve been developing a suite of maths resources. This blog explores six new hands-on activities.

To view all blogs on maths engagement, click here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about maths in an informal learning setting in the comments down below.

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