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Maths in Art

Throughout the Discovering Mathematics module we have learned that there is a lot more to maths than just timetables and textbooks, maths is all around us! It’s in space, nature and even in art. Who would’ve thought? In our recent lecture about maths in art all I could think was wow, in a subject once considered boring we can combine the fun and enjoyment of art to completely change children’s attitude towards mathematics.

In Liping Ma’s idea of a “profound understanding of fundamental mathematics” she mentions “interconnectedness” and this is great example of how we can connect two topics that at first glance, seem completely unrelated.



If we look at the above example of Islamic art it is clear that mathematics came into play during its creation, art of this origin is usually stuffed to the brim with beautiful geometric designs that include mathematical concepts such as shape, repetition and rotation. symmetry plays an extremely vital role and many Islamic pieces allowing these mathematical concepts to develop, whether it be one main line of symmetry down the middle or several to create an endless number of beautiful patterns.


As well as within the patterns in Islamic art, mathematics is present within the ideas behind many of the creations, components of shapes are unpicked within the subject however within this art many of the components have meaning.

The equilateral triangle represents the ideas of “harmony” and “human consciousness” whereas a square is seen to represent the world and the four corners stand as the four directions (NORTH, EAST, SOUTH and WEST) also as the four elements (WIND, WATER, EARTH and FIRE). The third main symbolic shape throughout Islamic art is the hexagon which represents heaven. finally, the star is seen as a central area with the spread of Islam through its points.

Of course Islamic art is just one example of how maths and art intertwine, there are a number of ways that we could incorporate the two subjects to get children excited about maths again. Using them together will also encourage children to develop a specialist knowledge of the subject and will help them to see that their are multiple perspectives within the subject and they can use what they know to find out more about the world, not just to achieve the required answer to a problem.

Ma, L.(2010) Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics. New York: Taylor and Francis.

University of Leeds International Textiles Archive.(2008)Form, Shape and Space: An Exhibition of Tilings and Polyhedra. St. Wilfred’s Chapel: Leeds.

Why Choose Maths?

When we were given the opportunity to pick our elective for MA2 I can easily say it was a tough decision for me. Throughout my time at high school I never really excelled in one particular subject, I feel as though this was mainly due to a general lack of enthusiasm, people are always saying “a good workman never blames his tools” but I do believe that my teachers were partly to blame. In MA1 we were asked to write a post explaining how we feel about mathematics and I wrote a bit about how my teacher had an impact on my lack of confidence within the subject. Throughout school the teachers only really seemed to concentrate on the pupils that were either extremely “smart” and enthusiastic or on those who were extremely challenging and I always found myself floating in the middle of the scale struggling to get hold of the class teacher when I needed help. However, it would be unfair to just blame my teachers for my feelings towards mathematics as I could have definitely shown more enthusiasm myself.

So how did I eventually reach my decision to pick the Discovering Mathematics elective? I decided to think back to my experiences of various subjects at primary school because I felt this would be more relevant as I do eventually want to teach at that level. I really excelled at maths throughout primary because I found it extremely fascinating. I don’t know if this was because I was fortunate enough to be placed in the top group and maybe we got more attention because of that. Due to these experiences I decided to choose the Mathematics elective because I want to ensure that the children I teach enjoy it just as much as I did. I feel as though maths is a big part of our everyday lives and we really don’t think about it enough, this morning the first thing I did was switch off my alarm that I had set the night before using skills that I had acquired at primary school! It is important that children understand that mathematics goes beyond the set topics within the school curriculum and I would like to gain knowledge on how to stop that collective sigh from the class when they find out that they have Maths after break. In the end, all of these reasons made it clear that this elective was the right one for me and so I had reached my decision!


Science Literacy Group Task TDT

AC1 – According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, scientific literacy is defined as “the capacity to use scientific knowledge, to identify questions and to draw evidence-based conclusions” It then goes on to tell us that “Clearly this does not mean turning everyone into a scientific expert, but enabling them to fulfil an enlightened role in making choices” This definition helps us to understand that science is something which should involve research of a specific area of science, ask relevant questions and find a suitable outcome. It also explains that science is a subject which should be enjoyed by pupils and teachers. Without noticing, we use science every day of our lives and a lot of our decision making comes from science. From choosing what to eat to considering how our decisions will impact the surrounding environment. So, an understanding of scientific literacy is extremely important in having a sound understanding of all types of science in everyone’s daily lives.

AC2 – Analysis of an example where a lack of scientific literacy has led to inaccurate media. Not all science literacy can be helpful. The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination is a good example of this. This vaccine is normally given to a child from around 12 to 18 months. This vaccine has almost got rid of these diseases. However only 60% of children in some areas of the UK are getting this vaccine, this might lead to an epidemic outbreak. The reason for this is because of a paper published by Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield suggested that the combination MMR jab caused autism. He studied children who were suffering from a kind of bowel disease that he thought could be linked to autism. (BBC 2014) Since the paper came out it has since been viewed as “misleading, dishonest and irresponsible” (Bad science 2010, no page given). It was also found out that the children who were tested, that these on were not performed in their own clinical interest and without ethical approval. (Bad science 2010) Studies more recently have showed that there is no link between autism and the MMR. A new study examined blood samples of 100 autism children and 200 children without autism. The results showed that 99% of samples showed no trace of the measles virus. So therefore there is overwhelming research that there is no link between the MMR and autism.

AC3 – Within scientific experiments, a fair test is one which the variables are controlled and bias is avoided. The aim of this is to provide reliable results that allow the experimenter to observe and identify the impact of one factor.

While exploring the concept of fair testing in the classroom, children should be encouraged to think about all of the factors that could influence the results of the experiment and which of these can be controlled. In this way, children are learning to become critical and then appreciate that absolute reliability may not be possible (Linfield, 2009. P3)

It is vital that children are taught the principles of fair testing within schools, because this allows them to recognise the wide variety of factors which can influence the results of a test or experiment. This knowledge allows children to be objective and to feel more confident to challenge or question information, rather than accepting it on face value.

Some may say that not all aspects of primary science need to involve fair testing. For example one of the primary school science experiences and outcomes states:

I can identify and classify examples of living things, past and present, to help me appreciate their diversity. I can relate physical and behavioral characteristics to their survival or extinction. SCN 2-01a (Scottish Government, 2009)

Fair testing may not need to be used for this particular outcome, however it will contribute to the child’s level of scientific literacy. (Jane Turner et al, 2012). Overall this supports the idea that fair testing does contribute to becoming science literate although it is not always vital. It is possible to become science literate without always using fair testing.



Jane Turner et al (2012) it’s Not Fair. Available at:…/30-33.pdf (Accessed: 09/02/15)

Linfield, R S, 2009. Planning to teach Science: in the Primary Classroom. London: Hopscotch

OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] (2003) The PISA 2003 Assessment Framework – Mathematics, Reading, Science and Problem Solving Knowledge and Skills. Paris: OECD.
Scottish Government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence: Science: Experiences and Outcomes. Available at: (Accessed: 09/02/16)

Turbull, M. (2016) Creating Connections and Contagious Enthusiasm for Science. Available at: (Accessed: 9th February 2016)



Let’s Make It Personal

Following the ePortfolio input where we had the opportunity to read some of our peers blog posts, I have realized that there are in fact a number of ways to display my professional thoughts within my own blog. I have also decided that I need to reflect more upon my own practice and take the initiative to create my own blog posts, not just sticking to tutor directed tasks.

Many of my peers have spoken about aspects of their personal life, I found this interesting as it made me feel like I was really beginning to understand the reasons behind their motivation to become a primary teacher. Some spoke of hobbies whilst others told stories about conversations with family members that really got them thinking. it was fascinating to see how much real life actually correlates to the theory that we have been looking at in lectures, workshops and tutorials.

Most of the best posts included some form of media, most commonly pictures or videos. I felt like this was successful as it allows any readers to gain a clearer understanding of what is being discussed in the post, as well as making it more interesting.

I think that others will benefit greatly from many of the posts that include personal experiences and media, due to the fact that for our tutor directed tasks we all write on many of the same topics and we are then directly able to compare our own posts with others and see how we could possibly improve and better our own work.

How I Aim to Learn More About Space

When asked to come up with an aspect of science that I would not be confident to teach, space immediately sprung to mind. A whole solar system out there that I know very little about. During my time at primary school, there were a number of occasions where we did make the effort to learn about aspects of space, however, not many of these activities actually stuck in my mind. My goal as a teacher will be to give interesting and important subjects justice by creating fun and engaging exercises for all of my pupils. This way, there is a much larger chance that the children will retain more information about their topic.

So back on to space, where to start? There is a vast amount of information out there on the subject so this task in terms of time scale, may take a while. I aim to be able to cover the basics of what is actually going on up there, and anything extra is an added bonus. If I were the class teacher and I had made the decision to teach my class about the solar system for a science topic I would start by taking them on a trip, mainly due to the fact that most of the memories I have of primary school include a break from routine, some sort of exhilarating outing.

My chosen excursion would be to Mills Observatory in Dundee, as this will give the children an opportunity to actually see some of the stars and planets that they have been learning about in class prior to this. Of course this outing will be weather permitting, a foggy night wouldn’t really be ideal. I have chosen this because it is easily achieved due to the fact that it is not far away and it is also extremely relevant to the topic of space, allowing the children to make the connection between class work and what they are seeing through their telescope. However, this trip isn’t just a plan for when I have my own class, it is something I could do myself before starting placement to brush up on my own knowledge of space, and I will also have an opportunity to ask some of the staff at the observatory any questions that I have regarding space.

As well as this trip I will use a combination of books, internet and television to build on what I already know. Following news updates regarding the astronauts who are currently in space may also be useful in my attempt to build up a clear knowledge base.


What Does it Mean to be an Enquiring Practitioner?

The general definition of enquiry would along the lines of asking something, so I would say an enquiring practitioner would be someone who is constantly questioning their practice. It can also be explained as some sort of investigation. This can be carried out alone or with colleagues and is extremely beneficial so teaching as it means constant improvement. By constantly questioning our own practice we will then be able to identify areas of improvement so that we can be the best teachers possible.

Practitioner enquiry has many benefits as well as development of own practice, it can empower teachers and give them control over what they teach and this can be very motivational. It also means that we can go further than just the classroom, practitioner enquiry could eventually change and improve the whole education system. This is due to the fact that it is highly adaptive and questioning is greatly encouraged by both pupils and teachers.

Personally I would say that working collegiately is a great was to improve the system of practitioner enquiry because teachers then have a chance to consolidate ideas and come up with the best solution which may lead to greater improvement.

Jack in the box

It can allow us to come up with different teaching strategies based on strengths and weaknesses in past lessons. It gives teachers a wider knowledge base due to questioning and being critical. This is beneficial because if teachers can improve their own knowledge base then that means that there is far more knowledge to then be passed on pupils/colleagues.

A main challenge of being an enquiring practitioner would be taking criticism from others without getting offended and having the ability to criticize friends without feeling emotionally attached.

Professionalism and The Online World

Social media is an extremely modern and useful tool for primary teachers but only if it is used in the correct way. We must learn to keep our personal and professional uses of social media separate if we can not behave in a way that is appropriate because if we fail to do so then this may endanger our fitness to teach according to the General Teaching Council Scotland’s code of conduct.

When using the internet in a professional way there are a number of challenges as well as opportunities that teachers may be faced with when marrying their personal and professional presence on social media. A main challenge I feel would be maintaining boundaries with pupils, keeping a professional relationship online. it is important that both teachers and children know the difference between communicating professionally and chatting with friends in an informal manner. Teachers need to know how to communicate appropriately with their pupils and it is important to know what is acceptable.

Another issue for teachers may be the children’s parent’s looking them up online, they must not post anything on social media that may be deemed inappropriate. For example pictures that include nudity or last weekends drunken antics.

it is important to consider that even though using social media in teaching has some key challenges, there are a number of opportunities that it provides. A main benefit would be the aspect of communication. It is important for a teacher and their pupils to have a good level of communication because it helps to form a stronger professional relationship. Children will be more likely to ask for help and support if their is good communication. Building a good relationship with pupils also tends to help improve behaviour, a teacher will find it easier to control a class if they can identify what is causing bad behaviour.

Children are very in tune with technology these days from an early age, it seems to interest them greatly, this is a key reason why technology is beneficial to the learning environment as children will learn more if they are actually interested in what thy are doing.

Overall I do think the benefits of using social media in teaching far outweigh the drawbacks if it is used correctly. It is important to marry personal and professional presence on social media in such a way that there are still boundaries.

I would personally like to frame social media using a mainly positive viewpoint, I feel this is appropriate as if used correctly it is an extremely useful learning tool, it opens up a world of extra resources and it is a far more entertaining way for primary children to learn. However, both teachers and pupils must always be aware of the dangers and challenges that we face while using social media, it can really make or break the learning experience.


Welcome to your WordPress eportfolio

Welcome to your eportfolio. This is where you will document and share your professional thoughts and experiences over the course of your study at the University of Dundee and beyond that when you begin teaching. You have the control over what you want to make public and what you would rather keep on a password protected page.

The eportfolio in the form of this WordPress blog allows you to pull in material from other digital sources:

You can pull in a YouTube video:

You can pull in a Soundcloud audio track:

You can pull in a Flickr page

Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

You can just about pull in anything that you think will add substance and depth to your writing.