The Mathematics of the Sun

This article was written by Robert Davie from Taylors Lakes Secondary College and the samples of student work were volunteered by students from Nhat Bui’s year 8 maths class.

This program exists to encourage student interest in the natural world around them and so lead them on to the study of the sciences as they progress through school. Using the telescope to make day-time observations of the Sun has proven popular over the last couple of years with two to three hundred students viewing the Sun each time Jacinta visits us. The year seven Sun project that accompanies these observations is generally well done by students across this year level as can be seen on past posts to TiS website.

So, can the telescope be used to help make the subject of Mathematics more relevant, if not more appealing to students? It seems to me the topic on Ratio and Proportion could be made more relevant in the eyes of students by showing them how the concepts they study in class are used by astronomers to gain meaningful knowledge about our Sun. This is also an area of mathematics that students tend to find notoriously difficult.

To that end I looked around and found some material at http://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov/ which the following task was created and trialled with some year eight classes at this school. We are still experimenting with the task in terms of finding the right level so as to make it accessible to all students.

The task is attached below along with four examples of work submitted by students from one of our maths classes. I am hoping that contributors to this blog will suggest improvements to this task, so please feel free to try this with your classes and use the TiS website to discuss your experiences. The question is, how can we use the telescope and tasks like these to promote an interest in the study of maths and science?

Year 8 Number Assessment Task – DRAFT version 2

Students work

Christian

Akin

Thomas

Emmanuel

Felicity

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