Maths in Museums
This is me, grinning my face off because the Learning team at Bletchley Park had just won “Best Venue for Maths Learning” at the School Travel Awards for the third year in a row.
The following year the category didn’t even exist any more. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is because there wasn’t enough competition to make it a fair fight.
Don’t get me wrong: we won it largely because we had an amazing general learning programme of which that mathematics angle was particularly strong.
Mathematics is something that a lot of museums shy away from. That, I think, is partly down to the (completely unwarranted) negative view of mathematics that seems to pervade our society. But do you know what? The maths activities that I’ve presented to people – in schools, at public talks and even, no Word of a lie, at Butlin’s – have always gone down a storm.
How do I make maths fun? I don’t! It already is!
I just work hard to show people what I see.
It’s also down to something that I’ve come across time and time again when bringing up the M-Word with museum professionals: “but there’s no maths in our story“.
Every single museum or heritage site’s story has mathematics in it.
It’s more obvious in some stories than others, but it is always there.
Here are some things that people often say or ask, and my responses:
“No, really, we have no maths in our story! I’ve looked!”
Honestly, it’s there. I can help you find it. You’re probably already featuring a little bit of maths in some of your Learning activities. Sometimes it’s just a case of drawing attention to it.
“We already do maths sessions!”
Brilliant! Though most of the activities labelled “maths” that I’ve seen in museums would actually be better labelled as “numeracy”. Practising calculation is really important, but in my view this is a general skill that just scratches the surface of what’s possible. You could go much deeper than that.
“But why bother?”
- Grow your Learning audiences: Trying to increase interest and uptake from Secondary schools? Most museums have history-focused sessions, but schools have to release students from other subjects’ lessons as well to go out on trips.
- Expand your general audiences: There are a lot of maths fans out there, and very little in the museum world that caters for our interest
- Contribute to the improvement of attitudes towards mathematics in the communities you engage with: many museums aim to have a positive effect on their local communities, and mathematical attainment correlates with higher scores in various quality-of-life indices.
“But maths teachers don’t organise school trips to museums!”
Yes they do; it’s just that there are only a few that provide for them. Add some curriculum-linked, cross-curricular, mathematically engaging content and you’ll have a product aimed at an audience desperate for it, and very little competition.
How can you help?
- Help you to find the maths in your story if you haven’t discovered it already
- Develop engaging resources, activities, or workshops based on the topics that we find
- Train your session leaders to deliver the sessions
- Provide professional development for your staff to properly understand the topics covered
Please contact me to discuss your needs as some jobs will be much bigger than others! My standard daily rate is £400, but this is negotiable.
Please be aware that expenses incurred in completion of the work (for travel, etc) will be added to the final invoice.
Contact me with as much information about your project as you can to get the ball rolling!