The beginning of March means many things. Mostly, it’s a chance to try out some great World Book Day Maths activities. For many schools this is a unique and truly exciting time; pupils in particular appreciate the opportunity to dress up and even teachers aren’t entirely immune to exciting prospect of donning the garb of their favourite character.

World Book Day can reveal how pupils – and oftimes even misguided adults – may see Maths and English as two insular topics, polarised and never meeting. But, as any good teacher knows, this is never the case. Indeed it couldn’t be farther from the truth and is in some instances a damaging view. With a view to this, and World Book Day, we feel it is important to say:

Maths is linked to literacy

Young learners of all ages need to be aware that knowledge is flexible, interchangeable and that, in the real world, a malleable approach to learning will benefit them hugely. For Maths in particular, World Book Day presents the perfect opportunity to do that.

As teachers we must remember that while content is what we teach, we must also focus on how we teach it. Do we teach Maths in isolation or as a part of something larger and more fulfilling? Maths is never so insular as when it’s taught in the classroom and contextual and topical problem solving is a way to circumnavigate this.

Looking for more topical Maths investigations? Download 20 more fun, printable activities to try with your KS2 class

Classroom resources free

KS2 Topical Maths Problems for Spring Term 2017

20 Maths investigations linked to calendar dates, designed to develop reasoning and problem solving in your pupils

Contextual Maths is not a new idea for KS2 lessons

Nor are its benefits unloaded, in a 2014 article for The GuardianeConrad Wolfram argued that pupils ‘should be grappling with real problems and applying maths to them’, suggesting that if this did not happen Maths would remain ‘so despised in education’ despite how ‘powerful and important’ it is in real life. Topical Maths – particularly topics like World Book Day – allows you to link primary school learning ‘real problems’ and to what have become hugely important elements of the education system in Britain.

Literacy across the curriculum

Consider the fact that tests are becoming more difficult in their wording, and pupils are increasingly being expected to have a higher level of literacy in subjects that do not necessarily depend on it in order to reach their potential in tests. Do you want to avoid that moment where a pupil is capable of doing the Maths, but simply cannot understand the phrasing of the question? Use days like this to bring an element of literacy into your Maths lesson.

With all this in mind, here are our favourite World Book Day based Maths activities for you to use in your classroom this week. Get reading!

World Book Day Maths activity 1

James and the Giant Peach

Ask pupils to read the first chapter of James and the Giant Peach, then get them to answer the questions below:

1. Guess the number of words in the first chapter.
2. If the peach doubles in size every 20 seconds, how much would it weigh after 2 minutes?
3. Estimate how long it would take to eat this giant peach.
4. If an average peach contains 165mg of potassium, how much potassium would be in this giant peach?
5. It takes 34 seconds for James to remove three of the centipede’s boots. How long would it take for James to remove all the centipede’s boots? Give your answer in minutes.

World Book Day Maths activity 2

A World Full of Words

Have a look at this extract from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe:

Lucy felt a little frightened, but she felt very inquisitive and excited as well. She looked back over her shoulder and there, between the dark tree trunks; she could still see the open doorway of the wardrobe and even catch a glimpse of the empty room from which she had set out. (She had, of course, left the door open, for she knew that it is a very silly thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe.) It seemed to be still daylight there. “I can always get back if anything goes wrong,” thought Lucy. She began to walk forward, crunch-crunch over the snow and through the wood towards the other light. In about ten minutes she reached it and found it was a lamp-post. As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter patter of feet coming towards her. And soon after that a very strange person stepped out from among the trees into the light of the lamp-post.

Now complete the investigations below:

1. Investigate how many of each letter of the alphabet there is in the extract.
2. Choose your favourite part of your favourite book and do the same. Make sure the extract has 178 words ‘to make your investigation fair and equal. What are the similarities/differences? What are the most popular letters/least popular letters.
3. Look into other details such as different types of punctuation and different word classes.

Check out 20+ more fun topical Maths investigations KS2 in our blog: 5 Ways to Use Topical Maths to Improve Problem Solving and Reasoning.

David Leighton , Content Team , Third Space Learning

A former secondary teacher, David keeps a weather eye on the educational horizon. He's responsible for making sure our blog posts and Maths resources reach teachers far & wide.