Contacts For Hands on Maths

This section is aimed at people with an interest in the learning of mathematics who want to see manipulatives and interactives, if used at all, used well, typically:

  • Parents or grandparents looking for toys with some value
  • Teachers wondering whether (or not) to buy apparatus for their classrooms
  • Museum professionals planning a hands-on maths gallery or a series of hands-on maths workshops (but open to the suggestion that they might present the subject ‘mathematics’ in other ways)

The subject of this website is hands-on maths. But teachers of mathematics at all levels start with the question: ‘How can I present [probability]?’, not ‘How can I use [interlocking cubes] to present [probability]?’. Hence the inclusion of categories coded P in the following list where the emphasis is on the mathematics, however presented, not the apparatus. (See also the section Your maths lab on this site.)


Under some of these headings we attempt world coverage. Under others we only try to cover the British scene. The rest are represented by single exemplars or some general remark and are omitted from the database following. But we hope to have instanced enough kinds of activity that you, in your own country, will seek something comparable there. Database headings are CAPITALISED.

The categories are not independent. A regional science festival invariably involves the local science centre and university.

A word about the exhibitions: these are specifically hands-on and explicitly mathematics. Not included therefore are mathematics exhibitions without a hands-on component and those containing interactives not primarily designed to exhibit a mathematical concept. (Mathematics is present in all hands-on science exhibitions – but implicitly.)

Apparatus supplier

A number are listed under the relevant station in the section Magic Manual on this site.
Almost all suppliers have a website and an Internet search will tell you what’s available and at what price.
Don’t forget e-Bay.



Hands-on maths publisher: exemplar

Tarquin Publications ( specialises in hands-on maths books.

Since they are invariably well illustrated, hands-on maths books from publishers outside the English-speaking world may be accessible to you even if you lack the relevant language. There are many in German, for example.

Maths club, school: remark

All over the world keen teachers run out-of-hours clubs where the children do hands-on work for which there isn’t otherwise the space and time. Some of what they do finds its way on to the school’s own website, or into a YouTube clip.
Please bring to our attention anything you think would be of interest to someone visiting our site.

Maths club, Internet: exemplar (P)

Arguably the world’s most important Internet maths club for schoolchildren is that based in Cambridge and falling under the Millennium Mathematics Project:


Select your own language from the drop-down menu. But be aware of the limitations of Google Translate.

Maths magazine, printed: exemplar, U.K. (P)

All professional associations publish journals for their membership. The Mathematical Association also issues a magazine for children:Symmetry+. The general readership is best served by mathematics articles in magazines devoted to science in general and the puzzle pages of newspapers.

Maths magazine, Internet: exemplars (P)

Aimed at sixth-formers and undergraduates, is another initiative of the Millennium Mathematics Project:

Plus (

The following comes from Queen Mary College, University of London:

cs4fn (computer science for fun). Hands-on interest centres on the ‘magic’ topics (

Maths trail: exemplars, U.K.

The ultimate in ‘hands-on’: when you embark on a maths trail, the multisensory environment is total.

The ‘city’ there is the City of London, but M3 (see on) do the same for Oxford.




Science festival: exemplar, U.K. (P)

If you don’t know what your regional science festival offers and when it takes place, simply google suitable words.
A good programme will be subject-indexed and you can look for ‘maths’. If the local science centre is involved, there is likely to be a hands-on component. The biggest festivals, like the Edinburgh International, are active round the year, not just through the particular calendar weeks thus dedicated. They may have commercial sponsors and other ways to generate income, but here is one supported by the Higher Education Funding Council under a scheme to attract more school leavers into higher education:

NRICH Headquarters:
Centre for Mathematical Sciences
University of Cambridge
Wilberforce Road

For primary enquiries:
For secondary enquiries:
For post-16 enquiries:
For STEM enquiries:
For postcards:
For everything else:

For general and events-related enquiries:
Kerstin Enright on 01223 766839 or Margaret Bull on 01223 764777

BTIN (Bath Taps INto Science):

University outreach scheme: exemplar, U.K. (P)

For background to the above scheme go to:



A continuous spectrum runs from a ‘workshop’, where all the participants carry out practical activities, through a ‘lecture with audience participation’, where a small number help the presenter with a demonstration, to a ‘performance’. We explain above why we include sessions where no apparatus is used at all. All the people listed are there because they address school or lay adult audiences.

Other commitments allowing, these people generally tour within their own country but accept invitations from abroad.

Presenters who work with children almost invariably work also with their parents and teachers, and with the general public.

We list individuals but add the codes beneath to show that they are part of a community. Think of the names therefore as nodes in a network. Contact any one and you will be referred to most of the others (and people not on our list who should be). We are equally sure that this will be the case whichever country you live in. The codes only identify the groups/projects/institutions they belong to formally: if you like, they show their nearest neighbours in the net, (and, even in the field of the public understanding of mathematics, one person may belong to several groups beyond those listed here).

We hope you want to experience these workshops and lectures live. But many of these people also contribute to radio and T.V. series, issue video footage via YouTube or their own sites and write books.

MB Maths Busking
MI Maths Inspiration
M3 Marcus’ Marvellous Mathemagicians
MMP Millennium Mathematics Project
G Gresham College Professor
L LMS Holgate Lecturer
R Royal Institution Professor
U University (named), project (named)

Links within each of the above groups will also take you to the member. Where there is no link below, take that route.

For the Royal Institution mathematics masterclasses, given at centres all over the U.K. at both primary and secondary level, go and under ‘Education’ click on ‘maths’.

The disyllable ‘magic’ occurs in many entries. Physical apparatus may be used to support your intuitions – or confound them. Either way, it should make you think. If we guarantee anything, it is that these people will do that.

Exhibition for Hire Location e-mail Parent organisation / notes
Geometry Playground + Geometry Garden USA Exploratorium
Measure Island Australia Questacon
Techniquest Maths Kit Wales contact@
Hands-on Maths Centre Location e-mail Parent organisation / notes
Mathematikum Giessen, Germany albrecht.beutelspacher@
Museum of Mathematics New York
Roadshow Location e-mail Parent organisation / notes
FunMaths Roadshow Tours U.K. marchant@
Hands-on Maths Roadshow Tours UK mmp@
Millennium Mathematics Project
Math Midway Tours USA
Mathematik zum Anfassen Tours internationally Mathematikum
Maths in a Suitcase Tours U.K. svanzeller@
Symmetry, Mirror Games Tours Portugal atractor@
The Atractor Group
Tenix Questacon Maths Squad Tours Australia Questacon
The Magic Mathworks Travelling Circus Tours internationally stephenson@
There are three main collections of apparatus stationed respectively at: Böhmerstraße 66, Essen, Germany; Lifetime Lab, Cork, Eire; George Eliot School, Nuneaton
Science Centre Gallery Location e-mail Parent organisation / notes
Deutsches Museum Mathematisches Kabinett Munich, Germany
Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin:
Spectrum (stations within)
Berlin, Germany
Science Park Galilei (stations within)
Vantaa, Finland
Math Space Vienna, Austria
Palais de la découverte Paris, France
Symmetry, Mirror Games Porto, Portugal
Technorama MatheMagie Winterthur, Switzerland
The Experimentarium: Mathematics Hellerup, Denmark
The Exploratorium (stations within) San Francisco, U.S.A
Science Centre Programme Location e-mail Parent organisation / notes
Life Newcastle, England In-house: Mathstastic
Math Space Vienna, Austria info@
Techniquest In-house: Mathemagic
TQG Outreach: The Cirque du Maths
Websites for builders of mathematical models Location e-mail Parent organisation / notes
Dave Mitchell
John Sharp
Math Monday
The Bridges Organisation Go to ‘Galleries’ for something to aspire to.
The Geometry Garret
Workshop Location e-mail Parent organisation / notes
Alan Davies U (Hertfordshire)
Andrew Jeffrey
Ben Sparks MB, MI
Caoline Ainslie (‘Bubblz’)
Caroline Series U (Warwick)
Chris Budd L, MI, R, U (Bath)
Claire Ellis MI
Colin Wright MI
Colva Roney-Dougal U (St Andrews)
Cyril Isenberg C.Isenberg@
U (Kent)
David Abrahams MB, U (Manchester)
David Acheson MI, U (Oxford)
David Schley MB, Institute of Animal Health
David Spiegelhalter MI, MMP, U (Cambridge)
Dorothy Buck U (Imperial)
Doug Williams (Mathematics Task Centre Project)
Ed McCann MI
Helen Byrne U (Oxford)
Helen Pilcher MI
Hilary Costello MI, U (Cambridge)
Hilary Weller U (Reading)
Hugh Hunt MI, U (Cambridge)
Ian Stewart U (Warwick)
James Blowey L, U (Durham)
James Grime MMP, U (Cambridge)
Jane Wright U (Bath)
John Barrow G, U (Cambridge)
John Roberts MI, U (Manchester)
Julia Collins U (Edinburgh)
Kate Bellingham MI
Katie Chicot MI, U (Open)
Katie Steckles MB
Kevin Houston L, U (Leeds)
Kjartan Poskitt (‘Murderous Maths’)
Marcus du Sautoy M3 (founder), U (Oxford)
Mark Biddiss (‘The Mathemagical Workshop’)
Mark Lewney MI
Matt Parker (‘Stand-up Maths’) MB, MI, U (QMC)
Mike Fletcher MI
Mike Spivey L, U (Oxford)
Paul Shepherd MI, U (Bath)
Peter McOwan U (QMC)
Reidun Twarock U (York)
Richard Lissamann MI
Rob Eastaway MI (founder)
Sara Santos MB
Simon Singh MI
Steve Humble (‘Dr Maths’) MB
Steve Mould MI
Sue Rowe MI
Thomas Woolley M3
Tom Korner G, U (Oxford)
Tom Noddy

Help us to extend and update this list (last revised 1st March, 2012)
Tell us about an exhibition you have visited and enjoyed which is not here. Let us know of any inaccuracies and outdated entries by e-mailing us at the address below.
Full contact details can be found on our contact page.

Watch out for Lego Conference in 2014

LEGO® Engineering Conference – 24 September 2013, 9am – 5.30pm


Incorporating LEGO® Robotics in Computing, Science, Maths, and D&T educationlego image

LEGO® Education and the Department of Computer Science at Warwick are partnering to present a LEGO®Engineering Conference. Student engagement is vital for every successful educator and getting students excited about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is more important than ever if the UK is going to remain competitive in this digital age.

That’s why LEGO Education has teamed up with the Department of Computer Science at Warwick to present a LEGO Engineering Conference featuring Chris Rogers.


Chris is a highly respected and internationally recognised expert in teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, STEM, through hands-on, problem-solving challenges. He has many years experience working with educators to inspire youngsters to understand the value of STEM, using resources such as LEGO MINDSTORMS Education, a unique robotics solution designed for classrooms.

The day will include presentations and hands-on workshops on the use of LEGO MINDSTORMS Education in the classroom, including

  • A first look at the new LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3!
  • Presentations about First LEGO League and RoboCupJunior
  • Reflections from teachers who have successfully used LEGO materials in their teaching
  • Meeting and talking to other teachers using LEGO MINDSTORMS
  • LEGO therapy

Study into the motivational use of LEGO

A Study of Motivation and Problem Solving Using LEGO® Education BuildToExpress™ in Elementary Social Studies Lessons


Cindy Little, Ph.D.


BuildToExpress™ is a process that focuses on developing academic, social, and cognitive skills in individuals from ages six to adult. The process uses LEGO® Education Expressions Sets that allow for the building of thoughts and ideas and contains the following four core elements:

  1. The Challenge: A facilitator asks participants to build something.
  2. The Building Phase: Participants build their responses using their individual LEGO sets.
  3. The Sharing Phase: Participants share their model with others.
  4. The Recap: The facilitator and participants summarize what was learned.

The main purpose of this mixed-methods study was to investigate whether or not this process impacted motivation and problem-solving skills in fourth-grade students during social studies lessons at an elementary school in central Texas.

The research design encompassed the following three primary objectives:

  1. To find out if students experience flow while using BuildToExpress
  2. To find out if using BuildToExpress increases intrinsic motivation
  3. To explore teacher and student perceptions of using BuildToExpress while solving problems


To ensure the validity of the study, the following steps were built into the research design: Choosing three classrooms (two experimental and one control) with similar student populations; triangulation of data collected on flow (two trained observers comparing observed flow behaviors with student self-reports); the use of a standardized, psychometrically valid and reliable instrument to measure intrinsic motivation (the Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory) in an ABA modified time series experimental design; and a list of interview questions used across all group interviews.

The results of the study were very favorable:

  1. All students experienced mid to high levels of flow across every study session.
  2. Test results supported the idea that BuildToExpress increased intrinsic motivation (see below).
  1. Student and teacher interviews revealed that BuildToExpress positively impacted problem solving.

A bit about Dr. Little:

Dr. Cindy Little holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Baylor University, an M.A.T. in gifted education from Whitworth College, and a BA in elementary education from Northwest University. She is currently an instructor at Baylor’s School of Education where she teaches research methods and child development courses. She also has extensive experience as a senior editor and managing editor of gifted education journals, has more than 16 years experience working in pre-K through university level learning environments, and owns her own research and consulting business ( Her areas of research interest and expertise are the theory of flow, creativity, critical thinking, and qualitative research methods.

A firm believer in constructivist, hands-on approaches to learning, Dr. Little regularly incorporates the use of the BuildToExpress process into her university coursework. She believes that in order for her students to become the best teachers, she needs to model best teaching practices. It is not enough for students to simply hear a lecture about how to use the BuildToExpress process. They need to experience the process and learn through it for themselves. She has found this approach to be very successful with her students as they find the process highly motivating and a new way to learn. It is always fun to watch adult students set their laptops, pencils, and notebooks aside and begin to build such things as their personal paradigms of education or models of best parenting practices. Dr. Little believes the BuildToExpress process holds great potential for learning across all ages of students, and she will continue to use it in both her teaching and research.

robotics teaching tips

This comes from Lego and is really useful as a guide:

Robotics Teaching Tips

‎10-31-2013 04:18 PM

Robotics Teaching Tips – John Heffernan

In this section, I pass along some teaching tips and other observation from teaching robotics for eight years.

  • Kids very aware of their schoolwork and teacher’s methods.  Be thoughtful about your methods and how to sequence everything.  You need to allow room for kids to experiences the successes and (temporary) failures of the engineering process but also provide enough scaffolding and prior experience, skills, and knowledge so they can be successful.
  • If you can afford them, the resource kits make a big difference in open-ended engineering challenges.
  • Be careful not let one experience color kid’s perceptions of engineering too much.   In 2011, sixth grade students had no previous robotics experience and we really built up the unit as being what real engineers do.  As happens sometimes with new units, I made it too hard and we also ran out of time.  We ended up frustrating some of the students.   So when I went ahead with a questionnaire to gauge students’ interest in engineering, I ended up disappointed with the results.  However, with a full preschool to grade 6 program now initiated, students will have an engineering experience every year and no one experience will have an overwhelming impact.
  • It took lots of trial and error to determine a good sequence of units for each grade.  I hope this guide will give you a good basic on which to base your own robotics program.
  • Programming can be difficult to teach to young children.  We use a variety of programs to teach programming in different ways.  We have found that it does need to be taught explicitly.  Most students won’t just pick it from copying the WeDo Activity Guide.  We use large laminated cards of the programming icons to have students physically place them in a good order to perform tasks and explicitly teach what each one does.  Without this instruction, young students tend to drag up icon after icon, many times the same one in a row, without really understanding what they do.    If you teach explicitly, WeDo provides a good programming basis for which to take off with NXT-G.
  • We found the same thing with the mechanical knowledge of WeDo.  We spend a lot of time in grades one and two discussing gears, levers, pulleys, cam gears, motors, and sensors.
  • It is also good, especially with all the WeDo projects, to have students always think about the transfer or energy from electrical energy from the computer to motor and how the mechanical energy may also be transmitted with simple machines such as gears, belts and pulleys, and levers.
  • The use of teams of two for robotics has been critical in our experience.  While an occasional single is fine if you have an odd number of students and will a good opportunity to shine for an advanced student, groups of three do not work well.
  • Don’t solve problems for them.  Provide support, give hints, teach the basics, but try not to solve the problem for them.  This can be hard for elementary teachers such as myself but they really need to solve things themselves.  When I find myself operating the laptop and programming and/or find the robot in my hands, I know I am doing too much.  I also tell the kids the same thing when I see them doing the work for other students, however good the intention.
  • Isolate problems when you are troubleshooting both mechanical and programming issues.    Also, have other kids help with troubleshooting.  Teach troubleshooting principals even when you are troubleshooting for them.
  • Something I tell students when they blame the computer for their own programming errors,  “Computer are dumb, they do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do.”
  • Different classes can look quite different and can also be very different at different times of the year especially in the lower elementary grades.  Adjust accordingly.
  • You don’t have to do everything all at once.  Robotics is rich in cooperative learning, math, science, technology, engineering, and programming.  Typical lessons have programming, science, a secondary subject such as math, science, or English language arts, and cooperative.  Especially in the early grades, don’t feel that you have to do it all.  You may have give the program sometimes or let go of the science piece in another case to focus your goals.

Lego Based Maths Reviewed

This is a review of the potential of using lego to build a maths curriculum:

1. The use of simple blocks and models to create primary lessons

There is a huge room for use of Lego in the primary curriculum.  It needs structuring a nd codifying but I think it could be a real hit.  Here are some key examples.

  • Lego fractions
  • Lego ratios
  • volume and area calculations of cuboids
  • Sequences
  • multiplication tables built as quickly as possible

2.  The development of models to explore maths concepts

3. The use of robotics to enhance maths and learning

Philosophy of Inquiry Maths

What is inquiry-based learning?

An old adage states: “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” The last part of this statement is the essence of inquiry-based learning, says our workshop author Joe Exline 1. Inquiry implies involvement that leads to understanding. Furthermore, involvement in learning implies possessing skills and attitudes that permit you to seek resolutions to questions and issues while you construct new knowledge.


Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Tim O’Keefe, a teacher at the Center for Inquiry elementary school in Columbia, South Carolina, explains why he thinks inquiry is a much more effective teaching strategy than traditional chalk-and-talk.

“Inquiry” is defined as “a seeking for truth, information, or knowledge — seeking information by questioning.” Individuals carry on the process of inquiry from the time they are born until they die. This is true even though they might not reflect upon the process. Infants begin to make sense of the world by inquiring. From birth, babies observe faces that come near, they grasp objects, they put things in their mouths, and they turn toward voices. The process of inquiring begins with gathering information and data through applying the human senses — seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

A Context for Inquiry

Unfortunately, our traditional educational system has worked in a way that discourages the natural process of inquiry. Students become less prone to ask questions as they move through the grade levels. In traditional schools, students learn not to ask too many questions, instead to listen and repeat the expected answers.

Some of the discouragement of our natural inquiry process may come from a lack of understanding about the deeper nature of inquiry-based learning. There is even a tendency to view it as “fluff” learning. Effective inquiry is more than just asking questions. A complex process is involved when individuals attempt to convert information and data into useful knowledge. Useful application of inquiry learning involves several factors: a context for questions, a framework for questions, a focus for questions, and different levels of questions. Well-designed inquiry learning produces knowledge formation that can be widely applied.

Importance of Inquiry

Memorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today’s world. Facts change, and information is readily available — what’s needed is an understanding of how to get and make sense of the mass of data.

Educators must understand that schools need to go beyond data and information accumulation and move toward the generation of useful and applicable knowledge . . . a process supported by inquiry learning. In the past, our country’s success depended on our supply of natural resources. Today, it depends upon a workforce that “works smarter.”

Through the process of inquiry, individuals construct much of their understanding of the natural and human-designed worlds. Inquiry implies a “need or want to know” premise. Inquiry is not so much seeking the right answer — because often there is none — but rather seeking appropriate resolutions to questions and issues. For educators, inquiry implies emphasis on the development of inquiry skills and the nurturing of inquiring attitudes or habits of mind that will enable individuals to continue the quest for knowledge throughout life.

Content of disciplines is very important, but as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. The knowledge base for disciplines is constantly expanding and changing. No one can ever learn everything, but everyone can better develop their skills and nurture the inquiring attitudes necessary to continue the generation and examination of knowledge throughout their lives. For modern education, the skills and the ability to continue learning should be the most important outcomes. The rationale for why this is necessary is explained in the following diagrams.

Illustration developed by Joe Exline

This figure illustrates how human society and individuals within society constantly generate and transmit the fund of knowledge 2.


Human society and individuals within society constantly generate and transmit this fund of knowledge. Experts, working at the boundary between the known and the unknown, constantly add to the fund of knowledge.

It is very important that knowledge be transmitted to all the members of society. This transmission takes place through structures like schools, families, and training courses.

Certain attributes are necessary for both generating and effectively transmitting the fund of knowledge. The attributes that experts use to generate new knowledge are very similar to the qualities essential for the effective transmission of knowledge within the learners’ environment. These are the essential elements of effective inquiry learning:

. Experts see patterns and meanings not apparent to novices.
. Experts have in-depth knowledge of their fields, structured so that it is most useful.
. Experts’ knowledge is not just a set of facts — it is structured to be accessible, transferable, and applicable to a variety of situations.
. Experts can easily retrieve their knowledge and learn new information in their fields with little effort.

(The list above was adapted from “How People Learn,” published by the National Research Council in 1999.)

Illustration developed by Joe Exline

This figure illustrates the attributes necessary for both generating and effectively transmitting the fund of knowledge.

We propose that the attributes experts use to generate new knowledge are very similar to the attributes essential for the effective transmission of knowledge within the learner’s environment — the essentials of effective inquiry learning.

Inquiry is important in the generation and transmission of knowledge. It is also an essential for education, because the fund of knowledge is constantly increasing. The figure below illustrates why trying to transmit “what we know,” even if it were possible, is counterproductive in the long run. This is why schools must change from a focus on “what we know” to an emphasis on “how we come to know.”