students on the sofa

Maths Revolution: Unleashing Creativity at Atelier 21

When most of us reminisce about our school maths lessons, we recall moments of struggle, boredom and a nagging sense of irrelevance. Parents often echo these sentiments, expressing frustration over their children’s difficulty in grasping the concepts taught in class. Maths seems to evoke strong emotions, dividing opinions with its perceived academic hurdles.

But what if maths could be something more? Picture stepping into a classroom where students are not just engaged but excited about learning, where maths transcends its academic facade to become an applied, relevant, meaningful and joyful exploration of the world around us.

At Atelier 21, a new term brings fresh opportunities for learning, today’s focus for year 9 and 10 maths is linear geometry—the study of movement in space. As the students gather in the classroom, some accompanied by Feo, the friendly black Labrador, there’s an air of curiosity about what’s coming next. The teacher, Jo, sets the stage for the day’s lesson, fostering an environment of comfort and rapport among the students.

Introducing the new investigation, Jo framed it within the context of the IB MYP curriculum. The class reflected on the statement of inquiry: “By applying mathematical logic to spatial dimensions, we can create personal and cultural venture opportunities.” Together, they unpick and decipher its meaning, recognising the potential to explore spatial measurement and its impact on personal, cultural and entrepreneurial endeavours.

With abstract concepts grounded in real-world applications, the lesson unfolds giving context to how they will progress over the term towards the summative assessment of designing a mobile app. As Jo navigates through the IB criteria, emphasising the importance of logic, space, communication and critical thinking, the students understand why they are learning this maths and are encouraged to delve into three types of questions—factual, conceptual and debatable—prompting them to think deeply and critically.

Throughout the session, students actively engage with the material, contemplating questions, hypotheses and potential applications. The buzz in the room was palpable, students focused and engaged alone or in pairs to find the country and capital of the day using a geo game as their provocation to begin thinking about how we use and calculate linear distances in real life (you can have a go yourself here:

Far from time wasted playing with an online game, the students were invited to consider a number of questions in preparation for a class review and discussion:

“Turn it into a mystery guessing game to challenge yourself.”

“What if they flattened the globe to make the maps, they don’t draw maps proportionally.”

“We have to do them in DofE to be able to find where we are.”

“They use triangulation of satellites to find GPS locations, maybe we can use that.”

“It’s educational, interdisciplinary, people are interested in doing it – geography meets maths!”

Just some of the ideas that percolated throughout the class at the end of their first lesson of a new topic, there is far more to come. Jo reminded the students that “maths provides us with models that act as a guide, models are limited but can still be useful”.

As the lesson progressed, the scope extended beyond the classroom, with plans to support Year 7 and 8 students learning algebra. With the Year 4, 5 and 6 Big Studies considering “where our food comes from?” the relevance of food miles to what we decide to eat is an ideal opportunity for the oldest students to apply their new skills to supporting the real world inquiries of primary students. The journey of learning is not confined to textbooks or age groups but extends into real-world contexts, fostering a deeper understanding, connection and appreciation for the relevance and significance of maths in everyday life.

Today’s IB MYP students at Atelier 21 embody a different perspective on maths — one that is vibrant, relevant and deeply connected to their present and future aspirations. Through a blend of inquiry-based learning, real-world applications and collaborative exploration, maths transcends its traditional boundaries, becoming a source of joy, relevance and empowerment for students on their educational journey.