page loader

Using current happenings to inspire your students

« Go back

Make sure you keep your eyes and ears open for something mathematical happening in the news. For example the New Horizons spacecraft reached Pluto and its moon Charon on Tuesday 14 July after a 9 year journey. How wonderful that scientists and mathematicians can work together to make such things happen. Think of all the mathematical facts about Pluto you can use to inspire your students – making place value, for example, come to life in your classroom.

Pluto is 7.5 billion kilometres from earth. How can we really think about that? What is a billion? (1 000 000 000) 1 billion seconds is about 31.7 years, so 1 billion seconds ago would put us in 1983. 1 billion minutes is approximately 1901 years, so 1 billion minutes ago would land us in the year 114. 1 billion hours is approximately 114 000 years, so 1 billion hours ago would land us in the Lower Paleolithic era or Old Stone Age. 1 billion days is approximately 2.74 million years, so 1 billion days ago would be when the genus Homo appeared in Africa. That means it is a VERY long way away!!!

Pluto was discovered on 18 January 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh when he was only 24 years old. How long ago is that date in 1930? How do you know? What strategy did you use? How close is Pluto to our sun? How heavy is it? (13 050 000 000 000 billion kg. That’s 0.00218 x the mass of our Earth.). What is its diameter? (2 370 km) How long does it take to make a complete orbit? (246.04 Earth years) How far does Pluto travel when it makes one complete orbit? (5 874 000 000 km). How many moons orbit Pluto? (5) Pluto is one third water. So what is the rest of Pluto made from? (rock)

Did you know that the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who died in 1997, were sent with New Horizons to Pluto. So dramatically romantic. What an honour to visit Pluto 85 years after his initial discovery.