What drama! Maths is fun for students who do sums through theatre

LEARNING From left, pupils Hannah Featherstone, 14, Sonny-Lee Thomas, 13, and Summer Haskett, 13, use the school's theatre to enhance their understanding of maths.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves (121488-1)
LEARNING From left, pupils Hannah Featherstone, 14, Sonny-Lee Thomas, 13, and Summer Haskett, 13, use the school's theatre to enhance their understanding of maths. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (121488-1)

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MATHS is a subject that can strike fear into many students who see only complex calculations that bear no relation to real life.

But 20 youngsters at Park Community School in Leigh Park have just road-tested a new qualification that teaches maths through theatre.

They have built a specially designed mini-theatre, organised ticket sales, written scripts and even dressed their leading ladies – the Three Ugly Sisters – using maths every step of the way.

And unlike a piece of long division or quadratic equation, they had a real stage, cast and crew to show for it.

The innovative two-week ‘functional maths level 1 certificate’ which is the equivalent to a GCSE D or E will now be rolled out across the country from June.

It promises to open doors to young people and adults who have failed maths at school to get on to apprenticeship schemes.

Park student Caitlyn Titchmarsh, 13, helped price the tickets.

She said: ‘This is much better than doing maths in the classroom because we’re solving real-life problems and we can see the result for ourselves.

‘It’s so rewarding to start with nothing and end up with an amazing theatre ready for the opening night of a play.’

Hannah Featherstone, 14, was involved in the intricate floor design which cost £371 in ‘fake’ money.

She said: ‘It was quite tricky as there were lots of angles to work out and different coloured tiles had their own prices.

‘We couldn’t have done it without good teamwork.’

David Willetts, science and universities minister, has taken a keen interest in the course and visited the school to see the students in action.

He said: ‘It’s very hard for children to learn maths in the abstract.

‘The students have clearly enjoyed themselves and I think this course is very effective because it makes maths more real and vivid.

‘Maths is one of our real weaknesses, but it’s also an area where there’s the greatest potential.

‘More and more jobs require maths and people with maths qualifications earn more than people without them.’

Hilary Strong, a former director of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the founder of Strong Ideas which is behind the course funded by Arts Council England, the Learning and Skills Improvement Service and UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.

She said: ‘Theatre is providing a creative stimulus to achieve all the skills you need in the workplace through cash management, budgeting, design and teamwork.

‘Some of the students might even be inspired to pursue work in stage management which is a growing industry.’