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The Winds of Change: KS2 Maths investigations for British Science Week - Topical Maths [5]

By David Leighton 

Try these British Science Week investigations on the theme of change to bring a STEM purpose and context to Key Stage 2 Maths in your primary school; fifth in a series of blogs linking classroom KS2 Maths lessons and resources to topical, calendar-based events. 

This year, the 10th till the 19th of March means only one thing - British Science Week. To us here at Third Space Learning it’s an exciting opportunity to add British Science Week (BSW) to our roster of blog posts on topical, calendar based Maths activities with the aim of increasing engagement in KS2 Maths. For more Spring-term 2017 activities linked to topical Maths in the classroom, download your your free topical problem solving resource.

BSW is a ten day celebration of all things science, technology, engineering, and Maths - with ‘fascinating, entertaining, and engaging events and activities across the UK for people of all ages’. For a taste of the inspiration and fun brought to communities all around the UK by BSW last year, see this video of last year's shenanigans.

Putting the M in STEM

Excitement aside, it’s imperative to remember that Maths is an important part of the STEM block, and bleeds over into many aspects of it. It would be difficult to become an engineer without a sound understanding of Mathematical principles, or a Scientist without basic Mathematics qualifications. 

Indeed the ability to solve problems, which the 1982 Cockcroft Report describes as ‘the heart of Mathematics’ is often the starting point of many STEM projects. What is the problem? How do I approach it? How do I solve it? 

Free download: 

20 topical maths problems and investigations for spring term 2017, including British Science Week

If, as the report suggests, ‘Mathematics is only “useful” to the extent to which it can be applied to a particular situation', then the importance of topical Maths is clear. It is a way to bridge the gap between learning Maths in the classroom and applying Maths in the real world.

Science Week - Change

The theme for this year’s BSW is ‘change’, the aim is to encourage young people to think about and investigate changes happening in the world all around us; from seasons and climate change, to materials and energy supply.

Change is an integral part of life, but never more so than in the current day and age. Society and technology are changing at a speed like never before, to the point where we begin to question if what we teach is becoming out of date before pupil's have even left school! More Mathematically speaking, change comes in the form of computerised Maths, and the dwindling supply of problem solvers, engineers etc. in the UK's workforce. 

With this in mind here are three science-based Maths investigations for you to try in your lessons:

Medicine Madness: George’s Marvellous Medicine

Roald Dahl’s famous book ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ is about how a young boy experiments with a strange concoction of ingredients which causes weird and hilarious changes in his grandmother. He has to recreate the recipe in the story, and realises that even the slightest change would mean it wouldn't work.

It took him a while, but George finally perfected his marvellous medicine. The recipe for 3 people is shown below. It is flying off the shelves in the supermarkets, and George has lots of requests to make more. Carefully read the ingredients for the recipe, and answer the questions that follow. 

Medicine recipe for 3 people: 

  • 27g of curry powder 
  • 18g of mustard powder 
  • 90ml of ‘extra hot’ chilli sauce 
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 600 gigantic purple pills 
  • 48 pale green pills 
  • 3 tablespoons of shaving-cream 
  • 4.5 tins of dark brown gloss paint


  1. George needs to make a batch for 9 people. How much shaving-cream should he use? 
  2. A customer needs a small batch of medicine, enough for 1 person. How many peppercorns should he add?
  3. A friend would like George to create a batch for 4 people. How much curry powder should he include?
  4. George charges £13.65 for the 3-person batch. How much should he charge for the 4-person batch?
  5. Curry powder comes in tins of 297g. How many batches of medicine (for 3 people) can George make with one tin?
  6. George has a request for a 36-person batch. The pale green pills come in bottles of 570. Will one bottle of pills be enough to make the entire batch? Explain your answer.

Climate Calamity

Mathematical statistics keep track of many global issues. Being able to interpret, analyse, and discuss data can answer big question which impact the world's future. Analyse this information and, maybe, save the world!

The amount of arctic sea ice has been falling by about 3% per decade since 1978.

  1. If there was approximately 14 million square kilometres of arctic sea ice in 1978, how much do you predict there will be by 2018, rounded to 2 decimal places?
  2. Draw a graph to help you predict when the amount of arctic sea ice will fall below 10 million square kilometres.

Matchstick Maths

The 6 matchstick questions below form an investigation that can be done in lesson time which encourages your learners to look at how new shapes and meanings can be created through the smallest of changes.

Bsw 1Bsw 2Bsw 3

Bsw 4Bsw 5Bsw 6

Tweet us @thirdspacetweet and tell us what you think is changing most in Mathematics and STEM? 

This post is number 5 in the topical maths series. Follow the links below for the rest:

  1. Heart Month Months activities
  2. Shrove Tuesday Maths activities
  3. World Book Day Maths activities
  4. International Women's Day Maths activities
  5. British Science Week Maths activities
  6. Holi Maths activities
  7. Red Nose Day Maths activities
  8. Easter/Lent Maths activities

For more topical problem solving tasks based on British Science Week and other calendar-based events for the Spring Term don't forget to download your free topical problem solving resource

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