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Posted by Cochranes

From the early pioneers of mathematics education to the current curriculum

Inspiration for our first maths’ set

Originally launched in the early 1970s, we thought we’d share a little of what the early promoters of mathematics education had to say about the very first version.

Looking back though the company archives from the mid 1960s there is interesting correspondence from Dick Tahta of the Department of Education at Exeter University. A pioneering math’s teacher of his generation, he is cited by Stephen Hawking as the teacher who inspired him.

Having purchased a set of Construct-o-straws, Dick Tahta immediately recognized their potential for teaching mathematics. He writes: “I have recently bought a set of your excellent Construct-o-straws. It turns out these are a type of educational aid that would be of great interest for mathematics teachers.

There is great potential for this sort of equipment in the classroom though at the moment the actual use could be confined to a few pioneers. I have been using a few sets in a local secondary modern and a primary school and am very excited about the possibilities. It is more than just making simple shapes. Very important mathematical activity takes place when certain questions are asked within some restricted range.”

The resulting Orbit Material for Mathematics has been used in schools throughout the UK and overseas for more than 40 years and remains a favourite resource for many teachers.

The latest version includes new work cards – now with colour photographs – to include current topics and methods of teaching. In essence though the product aims to provide the same inspiration and practical method of learning to pupils as when it was first launched.

Children use the straws and joiners to construct models of geometric shapes in both two and three dimensions. The interactive nature of the product engages children of all ages and helps both to develop fine motor skills and teach children to follow instructions and work together. The work cards provide suggested activities within core curriculum topics.  In the early years, children discover the number of corner pieces required, how many edges a shape has and what shape its base is. More challenging activities for older children include the construction of more complicated shapes, including stellated polyhedral and the study of duals. The set is also a useful addition for extra-curricular activities such as engineering clubs with some models included in the work cards.

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