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Case Study on ‘Maths puzzles designed by the librarian’ – Taylor High

The following case study was provided by Anna Leslie, SLRC Manager, The Joseph Wilson Library Resource Centre, Taylor High, North Lanarkshire Council

The library here at Taylor High organises and runs a variety of maths activities during the school year.  It’s a great way of promoting literacy, our library and encouraging another department to utilise the library.

I have recently returned from maternity leave but I have organised a number of highly successful maths activities which have given our pupils the opportunity to explore different types of literature and the world of maths.

The activities have all been different and have ranged from symmetry to problems solving.  The problem solving puzzles have been inspired by characters in Roald Dahl books and the storyline from ‘Shoot to Kill’ by Steve Cole, while others have focused on shapes which is a theme in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll.

Mark Dorris, Principal Teacher of Maths commented,

“The department was delighted to get involved with the various maths activities co-ordinated by the library, as it gave pupils the opportunity to develop their knowledge and understanding and their problem solving skills.”

The Roald Dahl Puzzle is all about team work and problem solving. Pupils are put into groups of five and asked to solve the puzzle as a team. Each group nominates a member from their group to read the puzzle aloud.  On the tables are copies of the puzzle, a bundle of scrap paper for possible answers (very important), pens, pencils and a larger piece of paper for their final answer.

The puzzles are firstly read aloud to the group, then the books that have inspired the activity are discussed and an extract from the book is read aloud. Each group is left to solve the problem.  S6 pupils also help, allowing our S1s to meet and work with some of senior pupils, which will hopefully inspire them.

Some events target whole year groups, while others focus on various classes, particularly those the Principal Teacher and maths teachers feel would benefit from such an activity.  I also try where possible to get S6 pupils involved.

More recently, the library celebrated Easter and symmetry with ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ by Roald Dahl and ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll.  Pupils were asked to design a hat for either Willy Wonka or for the Hatter’s tea party that embraced all things symmetrical from either the story or chapter that is read to them aloud by either myself or a S6.

Mr Anderson, a maths teacher involved stated “I’m always really glad to get my pupils involved with our many library events.  It’s great showing the pupils how maths and literature are inter-related.”

The librarian and teacher are able to walk around the various tables and guide pupils when answering the questions or completing the activity.  I am always really pleased by how well these activities are received by our pupils and staff.

These puzzles and activities are wonderful for both readers and non-readers alike.  They are designed by the librarian but I still work closely with the department to ensure their goals are being met.

An S2 pupil commented “It introduces a wee bit of creativity into maths”, while another S2 pupil stated “I enjoyed it very much.”

It is really wonderful to see pupils coming to use the library and utilise the various books that are housed here and also have a department that may not traditionally use the librarian’s skills to enhance their pupils’ learning.