Numeracy: All in an angle

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By John Spoonerteacher and freelance writer

From trail solvers to pirates – how a cross-curricular approach to angles can help children understand how to measure or estimate a turn

Pirate

Angle is often presented as a static concept in which children are required to estimate or measure a turn that has already been calculated by someone else, for example the person who drew the triangle in the textbook. Children need to be presented with opportunities to use angle as a dynamic measure of turn, in which they are required to select and find the angle needed for the task.

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One way to practise this is to ask groups of children to create geometric shapes using string. For example, to create an equilateral triangle, Child A holds one end of the string, while Child B walks 20 paces holding the other end. Child B must then turn around and face along the line they’ve just made. Child C holds the string in position next to Child B, while the group estimate the angle and distance that Child B now needs to walk. Remind the children that the person pulling the string must always be facing back along the last line that was created when they’re working out the degree of turn needed to make the next line.

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Protractors are tricky little beasts and children need lots and lots of practice with them. One way of pointing out the importance of accuracy is to set two string-pulling children off on paths separated by 5 degrees. Measure the distance between the paths at intervals and think about how a 5-degree navigation error might affect a long-distance walker, pilot or sailor.

Another important skill that children need to develop is a secure mental image of 90, 180 and 360 degrees. This is an essential baseline skill that all children should have at their disposal when they come to estimate and work with angle.

LITERACY

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