A Mathematical Drama

Posted by on Feb 4, 2014 in News | No Comments

Students at saltash.net community school were treated to a unique and unusual day as part of a new project being run by the school’s Mathematics department. The project, aptly named “Maths Your Turn,” gives students the opportunity to experience Maths being used in real life situations and workplaces, and how this core subject is crucial to many of the everyday tasks and jobs we take for granted.

The students, aged between 11 and 14 who wished to take part, first needed to send in a letter of application. Under the heading, “Why I want to find out about real world Maths” students explained why they felt they deserved to be part of the project, and what they thought they would get out of taking part. From all the applications the lucky dozen were chosen, and last week they had their first visit.

Day One was an expedition to local theatre production centre TR2 where a huge amount of the behind the scenes work for shows, both locally, nationally and internationally are put together and designed. TR2 has, in recent years, been responsible for a massive variety of shows, which the lucky twelve students were able to get a unique look at.

The visit started with a talk from Oli, one of the Technical Drawers at the unit, who showed the students a number of sets being put together. They then engaged in their first task of seeing how a technical drawer takes a design model and turns it into a full size plan and schematic. Students used the same principle, and enlarged a small section of shows previously worked on to full scale, and used this to compare their hands and feet too.

After getting an in depth look at some real life example of scale modelling, and finding out the industry standard scale for theatre is 1:25, the students then went to look at lighting. They heard about how beam angles and DMX addressing were crucial to making a show look just right, and how theatre technicians use Pythagoras and Trigonometry on a daily basis. They also worked on a self-discovery task, finding out how lights are ‘addressed’ to know which channel they are on, and how bright to be, using binary.

The day then continued with a full tour around the building, looking at how maths is entwined it costume making, construction of sets and props in the huge workshops, and also speaking to members of the human resources and finance team to see just how in depth something as seemingly simple as paying a wage bill is.

After lunch, the day finally finished with the students looking at some ‘theatre magic’ to see how a spiral staircase was concealed into the set, on a recent production of “Garsington Opera”. The group looked at exactly how big they could make the staircase to be able to emerge from the set, and how circles, and circle theorem, were crucial in getting measurements exactly right.

“That was absolutely amazing,” said Becky, one of the students involved. “I have always loved theatre and so seeing what maths happens behind the scenes has been really eye opening for me.”

Scott Wieprecht, the Enrichment Coordinator for Mathematics behind the trip, summarised the visit: “It was an excellent experience for all our young people involved. Having a fantastic centre like this on our doorstep gives us a unique opportunity to see ‘magic’ other people never will. I certainly think this has helped our students realise that however obscure the Mathematics they learn inside the classroom might be, there is always at least some use for it in the outside world – that’s why we teach it.”

“We would like to thank Fran and Oli from TR2 for helping to run and organise such an amazing day.”