The Mathematical Isles of What If…?

Welcome to the The Mathematical Isles of What If…?

Among them, you will find an inquiry approach to maths that promotes and develops curiosity, creativity, mathematical thinking, reasoning and problem solving within children.

Each island represents a low threshold/high ceiling mathematical task designed primarily for Key Stage 2 (7-11 year olds) although many would work with other ages too. They all have accessible starting points for a mixed ability classroom but equally contain limitless possibilities to challenge all learners. The best way to understand the approach is to try out a few of the tasks and see the possible directions that they could go in. The tasks can be found in the Isles section which contains a list of all tasks and filters for particular curriculum links.

The approach takes the view that exploring in maths is like exploring an uninhabited island in hope of finding treasure. Mathematical treasure consists of patterns and discoveries. However such treasure is only unlocked from the class communally discussing and validating children’s conjectures, whether true or false, and reaching a conclusion and not being given an answer from the teacher. It isn’t about them having to discover the mathematical content of the curriculum but using them as a context to take maths in directions never thought of before.

This can be achieved by initially giving them a small mathematical prompt, puzzle or task, I call them Landing Spots. From there, children can ask ‘what if…?’ questions to form new pathways or change the task completely in a creative manner to form new islands. The consequences of following them forms the experiences that children will have and each time will be different. They are not signposted, linear paths. Instead, they are formed from the creative pursuits of the children by being curious and from the careful analysis of evidence. As the children navigate their way through the isles, they will frequently become creators of mathematical isles themselves. Read more about the approach here or you can watch the video below.

In creating this approach, I sought to transform children’s attitudes to maths and reduces the disconnect between the activities of children in the classroom and those of a professional mathematician. I want children to love maths, to be in awe of it and to be in awe of themselves and each other in what they create through it. Come explore the isles and discover what they have to offer.