Actually, it was meant to start with a map. Give out a local map to each table, and ask the learners to stick a label on their home, a label on the college, and find the distance. If a learner lives ‘off the map’, then use Google Maps to find the distance, and convert to kilometres. A nice little exercise on scale, that provides suitable data for analysis – what is the average distance travelled, for example, and then possibly draw a network diagram and plan a route between the group of friends at the table. But we fell at the third hurdle: we found our homes, we measured the distance, but got stuck on the scale of 1:12000. What does that mean?

So out came Barbie, of which I keep a few in the cupboard. (I’m hoping one day to expand my collection to Kens and Barbies of obviously different ethnic origin, but at the moment I’m limited.) Is Barbie a scale model of a human? This always produces an interesting discussion, and we never fail to learn something new. For example, one’s feet are generally the length of one’s forearm, which is clearly not the case with Barbie. Much fun has been had by measuring ourselves and Barbie (not me – I keep out of that bit!), and a lot of mathematics covered. And we arrived at the conclusion, by measuring Barbie and measuring Charlotte, that the doll is on a scale of about 1:5.7.

And then, for some mysterious reason, possibly because we were playing with models, someone asked if we really did have a horse in the college. Do we have a horse? Yes, in the room next door! So in we went to measure the horse, and calculate the height of a suitable horse for Barbie, all still working to scale. Of course, not every institution is luck enough to have a life size horse.

And after that we went on to model cars and we did think of going out to the car-park to find a real Ford Focus, but it was raining so we did some internet research on dimensions. Eventually we were ready to go back to the maps, with a thorough and grounded understanding of what is meant by a scale of 1:12 000, or at least I hope so.

I did have a few other toys to work with, supposing we needed more practise, or should I say scale models. We have Dr Who, although a previous incarnation, a motorbike, and lots more. I have a big cupboard.

And there will always be one learner who does his own thing – or her own thing, and in this case it was Hollie, who declined to be photographed, but not a problem.

I’m still hoping one day that I’ll have learners designing a scale model of the Tardis, although I appreciate they aren’t easy to find outside of the capital.

And after that? We collected the data on distances, with a little help from one another we converted to kilometres, and each learner wrote their measurement on the board, along with those who had used Google Maps. From there the learners were invited to analyse the data, and we readily found the range and the mean. The mean gave us 5.9 km, which was suitably suspect since nine learners lived closer than this and only two lived a greater distance than this. By then it was time to round off, so for a final activity the learners lined up in order of distance travelled, furthest on the right, nearest on the left. (They would not submit to a group shot I’m afraid.) It keeps them talking as they have to ask one another the detail. Then I invited the person who thought he or she was ‘the’ average to take one step forward, and the girl in the middle duly obliged without the slightest prompting. Median sorted, and all done!

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