2. A cross-curricular approach

Look at Resource 2: Photograph of a pyramid.

Pyramids interest pupils. Here we explore how to visualise different pyramids. The teacher in Case Study 2, by doing some cross-curricular work, showed his pupils that mathematics has connection to other subjects and to real life. Activity 2 looks at the mathematics of pyramids by asking pupils to make their own, using nets.

Case Study 2: Looking at groundnut pyramids to motivate pupils in mathematics

When Mr Semana planned his lesson, he wanted to involve other teachers and to give his pupils more than a mathematical experience. He spoke to his colleagues in social sciences to obtain some pictures from geography and history books of Egyptian pyramids (see Resource 2).

He displayed the picture where all his pupils could see it and asked them to tell him what they knew about the picture and Egypt. Mr Semana made a mind map of what they knew about how they were built.

Next, he organised them into small groups to discuss the pyramids and list any questions they had about them. He collected all their questions together and sorted out those that were about the structure of the pyramids and their shape.

He gave each group a pyramid that he had made from cards (see Resource 3). He asked groups to think about the shape and structure and any common features i.e. sides, edges and faces on each.

Next, he asked them to think how the Egyptians were able to build such a large structure. He showed them more pictures of how pyramids were built and this really interested his class. As a result they asked their social studies teacher to tell them more about the pyramids and what they were used for. Mr Semana felt that this mixing of mathematics and social studies helped his pupils' motivation as they began their mathematics work.

Activity 2: Making paper pyramids

You will need copies of Resource 3, paper, scissors and sticky tape or glue. If you only have enough materials for one group to work at a time you can spread this activity over a week.

Explain to your pupils that pyramids can have bases of any number of sides and the simplest have equilateral triangles on all four surfaces, but pyramids can be made with any regular polygon as a base: the groundnut pyramids are made of triangular sides, but have square bases.

Give out the nets of triangular- and square-based pyramids, and ask pupils to cut, fold and glue these to make paper pyramids. Mount a display of them.

Next, place some straws or matches on each group's desk and ask if they can, using string or sticky tape, make a pyramid out of these materials. Go around and support the groups while they work. Let them share what they did to make their pyramids.

1. Using practical work

3. Using practical work to consolidate learning