Form 4 pupils were asked to imagine that they were building a tower block 100 storeys high. They started by attempting to construct a tower as high as the ceiling using magnetic rods and spheres. Initial attempts produced largely unstable towers that eventually collapsed as structures were unable to be extended beyond desk height. Carefully thought-out designs teetered and wobbled and finally crashed to the ground but despite the chaotic circumstances and general commotion, little lights were going on as pupils realised that certain structures were much more stable than others. After 30 minutes of experimentation ideas were being refined and excitement grew as towers began to climb.
Triangular prisms with diagonal supporting struts rose to the ceiling, spatial and numerical patterns emerged with a conclusion that developed the pupils’ understanding of algebraic concepts to create a rule to enable the class to calculate the number of spheres and rods necessary for a structure 100 storeys high.
Discussion ranged from the ancient Romans constructing aqueducts with repeating arches to present day engineers building vast towers at Canary Wharf. The language associated with Maths was fully utilised throughout the lesson with pupils being inspired to see how different branches of the subject synthesise in order to equip us to carry out essential roles in society such as architects and engineers.