People Maths

Get Involved

These activities need people! Get your students active by acting out mathematical ideas and concepts. They will understand the concepts better if they have taken part in these activities.

Whether it be the strategy for winning a game or a better understanding of loci a kinaesthetic experience beats pen and paper once in a while.

Noughts and Crosses

The people line up in two rows at opposite ends of the room. In the centre of the room are nine chairs arranges in a three by three grid, each chair no closer than one metre to the next chair.

The people in the rows are numbered off from one to how ever many people are in each row. One row are the noughts and the other row are the crosses.

The leader (teacher) calls out a number at random. The person in the noughts team and the person in the crosses team with that number rush to sit on a chair in the grid. The first person to touch the chair can claim that chair.

The first team to get three of its members in a straight line wins!

Person Maths

Parachute Games

The people are numbered and hold an edge of the parachute and mushroom it to the teachers directions. As the parachute is in the air, certain people change places.

"Change places if your number is.......

A multiple of three
Even number
Less than 5
More than 12
Less than today's date of the month
More than your age
Less than your height in feet
Square number
Prime number
Fibonacci number
Triangular number
A two digit number
A symmetrical number
Between 8 and 12 inclusive
In the 6 times table"

Lay the parachute on the ground and discuss circle properties. Establish an approximate value for pi by pacing across and round the parachute.

Ask questions about the colour of the parachute such as "What fraction of the parachute is green" etc

Songkran Game!

A circle game in which people pretend to shoot the person on their left (with a water pistol) then pass on the pistol to the second person on their left. As people are soaked they drop out of the circle. Who will last the longest?

Songkran Game Simulation

To generate the number sequence associated with this game see the formula you could use in a spreadsheet.

Unlucky 13

Another circle game. People take it in turn to count. The first person starts with one and can count one, two or three numbers. The second person starts where the first person left off and can count one, two or three more numbers.Whoever has to say "13" has to drop out of the circle.

Human Scatter Graphs

The teacher selects two walls of the room to be the axes. Students stand in a position in the room that represents their data. There are no scales on the axes so they have to imagine a scale which ranges from the smallest value in the class to the largest value in the class. Here are the Human Scatter Graph ideas.

Human Venn Diagrams

The teacher will organise for three large intersecting circles to be marked on the ground with chalk, string or rope. Students stand in a position in the circles (sets) that represents their data. Here are the Human Venn Diagram ideas.

Human Graphs

Students should be encouraged to stand up and make the shapes of the graphs with their arms. The mirror is there to check what their reflection should look like. Here it is: Human Graphs.

Around The World

People sit in a circle (representing the world!). One person stands behind one of the seated people. The teachers asks a "quick fire" Maths question to the person standing and the person seated in front of them. Whoever gets the correct answer first moves to stand behind the next person in the circle. The other sits. The first person to get all of the way around the world is the winner.

Fizz Buzz

Another circle game. People take it in turn to count going around the circle. If your number is a multiple of five you have to say "fizz" instead of the number. If it is a multiple of seven say "Buzz" instead of the number. If you make a mistake you drop out of the game.

If you don't have a group of people to play Fizz Buzz with you might like to try our online Fizz Buzzer game.

People Loci

This topic has been successfully introduced by getting the students to stand at a position in the classroom, gym or playground according to some rule.

Here are some examples:

A great evening time activity at a residential Maths weekend has been the 'Candle Square Spiral' creation:

  1. Students are divided into four groups and each has a lighted candle in a jar;
  2. Each group lines up on the outside of a large square (perhaps 10m x 10m) marked on the ground, with the first person in each line standing at a different corner of the square;
  3. The first person in each line takes one pace towards the first person in the line at the corner of the square to their right.
  4. They place their candle on the ground at their feet then retire to a high vantage point overlooking the square;
  5. The second person in each line starts at the candle that has just been placed on the floor and takes one pace towards the candle placed on the floor by the group to their right;
  6. They place their candle on the ground at their feet then retire to a high vantage point overlooking the square;
  7. The next person in each line starts at the candle that has just been placed on the floor and takes one pace towards the candle placed on the floor by the group to their right;
  8. They place their candle on the ground at their feet then retire to a high vantage point overlooking the square;

Repeat the last two instructions until all candles have been positioned. Everyone should now see the square spiral pattern from their vantage point!

Candle Square Spiral

Can you see from the diagram above what the finished pattern might look like after everyone has put down their candles? In the dark of the evening it looks quite stunning.

In addition to these ideas you could adapt the situations given in Herding Sheep

Bomb Disposal

With only about two minutes to go before the end-of-lesson bell rings the news comes in that there is a bomb in the classroom that needs defusing before the bell goes. The teacher comes up with a suitably large number as the 'danger level' (189 for example) then pupils take it in turns to subtract a fixed number (7 for example) from the danger level. The class shared objective is to reduce the danger level to zero before the bell goes. Great fun!

Do you know any other "People Maths" activities?
Please let us know.

Your Comments

Rob Goodwin, City Of Leeds School UK

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The FizzBuzz game can be adapted to lower multiples eg 3s and 5s to make the game easier.
You can choose other properties too like Primes and Squares
A final one - use 3s,5s and 7s call it FizzBuzzWuz then play as before - this even catches teachers out!

Kevin O’Brien, TES

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Here is an article from the TES about creating a 'human pie chart' in your maths lessons. For this Year 6 teacher, teaching pie charts in maths was always a struggle – until he found two unique ways to transform his approach: Full Article.

David Butler, Twitter

Monday, July 9, 2018

Heinemann, Twitter

Thursday, May 30, 2019

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