I’ve always been a fan of using practical experiments in both mechanics and statistics, and I really felt that their value to students justify the time spent setting up and running them. In the past, we’ve run a number of days promoting practical activities to maths teachers.
The 2017 A levels have increased the focus on modelling within the A level and, in recent events, we’ve investigated the use of videos to set up inspiring situations for students to model. This can be a really time-effective way to use real-life data, to motivate students, and to promote understanding of the modelling cycle, as well as giving opportunities for students to choose the mathematical techniques to use to enable them to get and refine an answer.
If you can set up an Atwood machine to measure a value for gravity, that’s great – if not, why not watch a video of scientists in white coats from MIT set one up, give you the data, and then spend the time choosing and doing the calculations?
Who doesn’t want to throw a rock down a hole – but how deep is it really? What measurements do you need to take? What assumptions have you made?
And there’s no way we can model a jump from the edge of space – but there’s so much rich maths to take from this…
It’s not just useful for mechanics though… investigating why airlines sell tickets is a great practical way of studying the binomial distribution.
By Abi Bown