Using drama to teach pupils maths concepts

Mayflower Primary pupil Annabel Gan (centre), 12, cutting a piece of cardboard as classmates work on other parts of a prop. The project to design props for a skit teaches the children how to apply properties of a circle to a real-world context.
Mayflower Primary pupil Annabel Gan (centre), 12, cutting a piece of cardboard as classmates work on other parts of a prop. The project to design props for a skit teaches the children how to apply properties of a circle to a real-world context.ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

During a Primary 6 maths lesson at Mayflower Primary School, pupils clamber into cardboard boxes and wiggle under makeshift tunnels, cutting and taping up materials as "set designers" creating props commissioned by a client.

They are given a project brief with three main principles to keep in mind: the props need to be designed for children, be low-cost and must come in circular shapes.

This imaginary scenario allows pupils to apply what they have learnt about the properties of circles - such as diameter, radius and circumference - to a real-world context.

 
 
 

Such a learning approach is part of the National Arts Council's Teaching Through the Arts Programme, which aims to help schools use artistic methods to teach non-arts subjects.

This has also allowed teachers to think of creative ways to engage different types of pupils, such as those who learn better by carrying out physical activities, said Mrs Jessie Ching, a maths teacher and school staff developer at Mayflower Primary.

"It is all the better if students also share about the challenges that they have encountered or the misconceptions that they have about the topic, so that they can learn from each other, and teachers can also understand their thinking," she added.

Other types of maths classes involving drama include one that requires pupils to take on the role of a farmer who has to manage a small plot of land when learning about area and perimeter.

The school started using drama to teach in 2012 with three classes - two Primary 4 and one Primary 5 - and drama is now used at all levels in the school.

For the creative use of drama to teach maths, it was awarded the Ministry of Education's Innergy Award (Schools) last year, which recognises innovative methods in education.

Primary 6 pupil P. Mahalakshmi, 12, had a better understanding of how the length of a circle's radius can be used to draw a perfect circle after listening to her classmates' presentations about the props that they have built.

"I like maths better now because we have hands-on activities.

"This class is not just about maths, but also about teamwork," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2016, with the headline 'Using drama to teach pupils maths concepts'. Print Edition | Subscribe