Any of our People Photographs can be used as a suitable stimulus for your maths sessions. Look through the collection and find the photograph that best suits your needs and the students’ interests. For example, show the picture of the ballet dancer. Ask everyone to brainstorm 10 different maths ideas based on this photograph. Challenge them to be creative, to think of as many maths possibilities as they can. We need to develop maths confidence in our students so that they can think for themselves, without us always providing the mathematical links for them.

How many right angles can you spot? Acute angles? Obtuse angles? Reflex angles? How long can a dancer stay on their toes? What is the longest time on record? Look at her hair – how long might it really be? Why has it been tied up so tightly? Who are the 10 most famous ballet dancers in the world today? Why are they so famous? Who is/was the most famous ballet dancer ever? How do you know this? How many students in your class are learning ballet? What percentage is this? What would it look like as a column graph? What is the ratio of boy to girl ballet dancers in your class? What is the ratio of ballet to non-ballet dancers in your class? How many times can a dancer spin before they lose their balance? What’s the longest time a dancer can stand on just one foot? How much does a pair of ballet shoes cost? What is the most popular form of dance? How will you find out?

Once you have a suitable collection of questions, these can then form the basis of further class investigations, or problems to solve. Teams can select the question they most want to investigate. Again challenge your students to find as much mathematics hidden in their topic as they can. You can always use the Maths Sub-strand Checklist proforma as a prompt for their thinking. You can find this in the first column (General Info).

Congratulate students for specific maths achievements using the photograph as an initial stimulus, such as the most mathematical links, the clearest example of maths calculations, the quality of their presentation details.The more specific they can be the better. You don’t need lots of worksheets and textbooks to stimulate your students in maths. You need something that excites their interest, that intrigues them, that encourages them to ask more questions.

Try to make time at least once each week to use a photograph as a quick mental warm-up. Your students will soon look forward to inspiring you with their quick responses, depth of thinking and breadth of vision.