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By Jess Sashaw on

Maths engagement: Developing hands-on maths resources

Hands-on making activities are an essential part of our learning resources offer. Our activities use easy to find materials and give people the opportunity to get creative with science and maths at home and in the classroom. Jess Sashaw discusses our newly developed set of maths resources.

Our hands-on making activities have been developed to support all ages and STEM subjects and over the past year we have been working to grow our maths resources offer.

We’ve been developing a suite of maths resources, which includes six new hands-on activities alongside two existing resources:

All our resources are shaped by our learning approach and philosophy – to ignite curiosity and questioning around STEM by assisting discovery through active participation and social interaction. To ensure that we best support the needs of our audiences, the formats, content and design of all our resources are based on evidence and research informed good practice. Some of the key features our resources are that they:

  • Are hands-on, engaging and fun to use. They use more than just pencil and paper to work out a problem, encouraging people to make or use something that they can actively engage with.
  • Use every day, easily sourced materials to make the activity as accessible as possible and to help give people confidence that they can do them.
  • Enable people to use, and recognise where they use, a wide range of STEM skills (e.g. making observations, communication, curiosity, asking questions, creative problem solving, finding and using evidence, teamwork, etc.)
  • Invite and encourage people to investigate further and find out more. The step-by-step instructions give a finished product at the end, but, investigate questions encourage them to go beyond the final step, either by trying something in a new way, or taking on a new challenge.

Our 'Bubble Geometry' resource with key features highlighted e.g. easily sourced, everyday materials, easy to follow picture led instructions and everyday maths links (that 'everyone' can relate to).

Our aim has been to create inspiring, enjoyable and memorable experiences to spark interest and promote more positive attitudes towards maths and to help broaden the perception that maths is more than a subject that is learned in school. We want to help people recognise how it has useful and relevant applications that impact all our lives, every day.

Like all our resources our new maths activities were developed with our engagement reflection points in mind, to help make maths feel more accessible to as many people as possible.

Confidence and ownership

2 of our maths resources: Make an Animation and Bubble GeometryMany people feel like they ‘can’t do maths’, or even experience maths anxiety when presented with maths problems. A key goal with these hands-on activities is to help build maths confidence and give people ownership of their experience. Using images and words, all the activities include the equipment needed and a step-by-step guide to help build confidence to participate. In the investigate section, we encourage people to take it a step further. Now that they know how to do the activity, how can they challenge themselves creatively?

Make an Animation, challenges people to try their own image to animate, like a balloon that grows and shrinks in size. With this animation, there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it, instead people are given ownership of their experience, through encouragement to try it out and see if it works, and to explore how to get it to work better.

The same is true with Bubble Geometry, once people have tried the activity we encourage them to use the same steps to try out a new shape of their choice. The goal isn’t to have a perfect new shape at the end, but rather the experience and confidence of trying it out.


2 of our maths resources: Cipher Wheel and Mystery TubeMaths uses many skills, although the first one most people would think of is fluency in numeracy (for example, how quickly you can do calculations). However, there are a range of skills that are used in mathematics.

Cipher Wheel encourages people to use their problem-solving skills to create their cipher to make a secret message. In addition,  make observations and use curiosity to expand their own cipher equation and solve other messages.

Mystery Tubes is a skill-based activity which gets people using logical reasoning to figure out how shoelaces connect inside a tube (without looking). By working through the challenge, people are encouraged to recognise other skills they use throughout the process, such as curiosity, observation and communication.

Everyday examples

2 of our maths resources: How tall is that tree? and Shape DetectivesIt can sometimes be challenging to see how maths is used the real world.

How Tall is That Tree, takes trigonometry off the page, and makes it hands-on and direct. Instead of calculating a side of a triangle on a page, the activity is about making a tool that is used to estimate the height of something in the real world. It gets people measuring, observing and applying maths formula to try and figure it out. The activity is very similar to what surveyors on the side of the road are doing when they use their machines to figure out the shape and slope of the land.

For ages 5-7, Shape Detectives involves cutting out shape templates, and exploring the world to find the shapes highlighting where different shapes exist in everyday life. Which shape is most common? You’ll have to try it yourself to find out!

Our ‘maths engagement’ series shares insights from the research, development, and delivery stages of our new maths engagement offer.

The first post in this series shared our journey into maths engagement and our previous post shared how our engagement reflection points help people connect with maths. Upcoming posts will feature our newly developed maths image banks and maths 3D objects.


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