My TeachMeet slot - Animation in Maths

Here's what I would have said if I'd had more time:

I have grabbed one hour per week in an IT suite with my class of level B/C S2 mathematics pupils. We have spent some time using Tutpup, which has been good fun, and has caught the students' imaginations. But it does not fill an hour per week - 20 minutes is about enough at one time.

The biggest success has been the work we have done on creating mathematical stories. We happen to have been using GoAnimate, but I think this would work just as well with Comic Life, Digital Video or any medium which has some depth of skill acquisition but delivers rapid initial gratification.

Here's an (unfinished) example of one of the animations:

I am pleased with this project for several reasons:

The pupils are enjoying learning how to make animations. Enjoyment is sometimes a bit thin on the ground in maths for some of these students, despite my efforts to jolly things up, so I'm delighted to see them turning up early to the computer lessons, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

The pupils are experiencing success. Some students who find maths very challenging seem to see maths as being either babyish (their definition of the maths they can do) or impossible.  This project has enabled them to experience success at learning how to create animations, a task they consider to be cool enough to be worth mastering.

Pupils are learning from each other as they explore the functionality of goanimate. It has been delightful to see the pupils helping each other out as they learn.  I'm hearing things like "Paul [fake name] - how do you add that explosion?" or  "that's cool, but the frame is a bit quick - here's how you can slow it down a bit."  These positive interactions have  definitely improved the atmosphere back in the maths classroom.

Pupils are actively considering real life applications of numeracy. I presented the students with a simple challenge once they had developed some basic skills with goanimate:  create an animation that shows how you use maths in real life.  I made it clear that animations without mathematical content would not do.  This led to some interesting discussions, and some great animations.

I have no idea yet how the rest of the year will pan out - please let me know if you have any bright ideas!  I should finish by saying that I have found most the web applications I have used this year through the blogs and twitter messages of my "personal learning network".  They are a superb resource!


  1. I really liked the way you describe working with pupils like this. Last session I did a similarly motivating project with some primary children using comic life:

    Took a long time but the experience of success kept the pupils on task.

  2. I like that animation app. My mom is a English teacher but not so savvy with technology. Is the learning curve is enough that she could learn it before teaching her students how to use it?

  3. Hi Adam. It's really easy to get started with goanimate. Your mum won't need to teach her students how to use it. She can let them loose on it and have them teach her how to use it :-)

  4. Your project was definitely one of the inspirations for my using animations in maths. Thank you :-)

    We have comic life on desktops in East Lothian now, so comics may be our next activity.

  5. [...] The very important and growing initiative that is Teachmeet. One of the short presentations at this year’s Teachmeet was Robert Jones making use of GoAnimate in maths. [...]

  6. Chrissie Maclean8 October 2008 at 10:06

    Your annimation doesn't seem to be working. I'd really like to see it.

  7. It may be because you don't have flash 9 installed on your machine. It seems to be working here.

  8. Sounds like this way of 'teaching' is something approaching your 'third way' as mentioned in your previous posting. Intrinsically motivated students, experiencing challenge and enjoyment, being creative, using self and peer assessment to inform next steps and seeing the relevance of what they are doing. Great stuff, stick with it. Have you thought about the types of skills this is developing in the youngsters, beyond the numeracy outcomes? This looks like an incredibly rich piece of learning.

  9. Nice of you to say so Barry :-)

    I am pleased with how it has gone, and did think about the literacy element in particular of what they were doing, but we should not lose sight of the fact that they didn't learn any new maths in this project - simply consolidated some things they had already met.

    I'm not sure how sustainable it would be to try to teach a year's worth of new mathematical concepts in this way. I'm not saying that it would be impossible - just that I'm not sure that it would be possible :-)


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