ENHANCE STUDENTS’ SCIENTIFIC BASIC SKILLS THROUGH THEIR ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT IN THE LEARNING PROCESS

Chapter 4: Case studies

4.3. Learning mathematics through nature

Evidence shows that hands-on learning and real-world applications are more effective at engaging student interest. This is even more relevant when teaching mathematics topics, which are often considered by students as very abstract concepts. One of the main used strategies is to take advantage of games, which are considered to introduce meaningful situations to students thus improving learning motivation. Also in this context, nature offers several examples that can be used to exemplify a huge number of concepts, from the simple ones (e.g. spheres, symmetry etc.) to more complex ones (e.g. Fibonacci spirals). In this context, the project E-learning from nature envisaged a set of activities where nature, heritage and ethnography was used to illustrate some mathematical concepts. Some examples include the activities “Area of composite figures of a monastery”, “How high is the tower” and “Isometries are everywhere”. These three examples were developed in the Portuguese natural areas of interest, namely “Montesinho Natural Park”, “Romeu Rede Natura Site (PNDI)” and “Douro Internacional Natural Park”, respectively. In the first example a composed area calculation was proposed based on figures existing on “Castro de Avelãs” monastery. The students need to know the area and perimeter of rectangles and circles, for which several dimensional measurements had to be taken. In the second case the geometric patterns existing in traditional costumes were explored to identify isometries and recognize their common properties. In the last example, the height of a tower was calculated using two strategies: (i) triangles similarity theorem, using a cross-staff and a tape measure; (ii) trigonometric concepts, using a quadrant and a tape measure. Similar activities were proposed within the project partnership. Among the examples, “Quantitative studies of a habitat” (Ireland), “Mathematical calculations in the wild” and “Age of trees, topographic plan” (Lithuania) can be consulted in the project portal. The activities proposed here can be thereafter replicated in various natural contexts.

Online Resources

- Context of mathematics examplesThis website (Connections Academy) presents several Math activities to be used with kids
- EureKit – Laboratório de jogos de matemática (Matematics games laboratory)EureKit is a project developed at the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança that uses games to promote the interest for mathematic topics
- E-learning from natureThe E-Learning from Nature project is funded by the European Commission and the Italian National Agency for the Erasmus+ Programme with the aims of: (i) Promoting a proactive students’ approach to scientific subjects learning; (ii) Propose innovative teaching methodologies to scientific teachers.
- Area of composite figures of a monasteryA mathematics example extracted from the E-learning from nature portal.
- How high is the tower
- Isometries are everywhereA mathematics example extracted from the E-learning from nature portal.
- Quantitative studies of a habitatA mathematics example extracted from the E-learning from nature portal.
- Mathematical calculations in the wildA mathematics example extracted from the E-learning from nature portal.
- Age of trees, topographic planA mathematics example extracted from the E-learning from nature portal.