Curious Learners in Primary Maths, Science, Computing and DT


Alan Cross, Alison Borthwick, Karen Beswick, Jon Board & Jon Chippindall

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  • Back Matter
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  • Copyright


    The authors would like to thank the pupils and staff of the following schools:

    Chapel Break Infant School, Norfolk

    Cringleford Primary School, Norfolk

    Crumpsall Lane Primary School, Manchester

    Hevingham Primary School, Norfolk

    Lionwood Junior School, Norfol

    Mauldeth Road Primary School, Manchester

    Wesley Methodist Primary School, Bury

    West Earlham Junior School, Norfolk

    Thanks for her valuable assistance – Charlotte Morton.

    Thanks for the photograph of Alan Turing's statue – Tim Chippindall.

    About the Authors

    Alan Cross Alan teaches primary science, DT and Computing at the University of Manchester as well providing CPD in primary science and DT and writing about science for primary students and teachers. Alan has published in refereed journals and has recently co-authored Essential Primary Science (2nd edition), OU Press with Adrian Bowden and also in 2014 Creative Ways to Teach Primary Science, OU Press with Jon Board. Alan is a school governor, has worked as an Ofsted inspector of schools and HEI, external examiner and has contributed to primary science projects around the world.

    Alison Borthwick Alison has over 20 years’ experience as a teacher, local authority adviser, governor, Ofsted inspector and freelance consultant. She has also worked in ITT for several institutions supporting mathematics courses and has been involved in several international projects for mathematics. Alison has researched and published material on children's calculations strategies and children's perceptions of, and attitudes towards, mathematics lessons.

    Karen Beswick Karen has 20 years’ experience teaching in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. She has worked as an Advanced Skills Teacher and local authority advisor, providing tailored programmes for schools and whole borough CPD in science. Karen is the Primary Science National Lead and University tutor for TeachFirst, a governor, and provides CPD for primary curriculum leads. She teaches science, design technology, cross-curricular and early years at The University of Manchester.

    Jon Board Jon teaches science at Mauldeth Road Primary School and contributes to the PGCE Primary Science course at The University of Manchester. He has a particular interest in encouraging the scientific enquiry skill of questioning and in developing effective models for understanding in primary science. Jon has published in the area of primary science including co-authoring Creative Ways to Teach Primary Science (2014) OU Press and the international science scheme of work – Cambridge Primary Science. He has worked abroad, training primary teachers in countries such as Egypt, Mongolia and the Middle East.

    Jon Chippindall Jon has taught for five years and is currently the Computing Coordinator at Crumpsall Lane Primary School, Manchester, where he specialises in teaching Computing. He is a CAS Master Teacher and runs the popular computing blog He helped develop the DfE Barefoot Computing resources and delivers computing CPD with schools nationally.

    About this Book

    Curiosity has the potential to enhance learning in all curriculum subjects. This book is about curiosity and how it impacts on four primary school subjects, which can be grouped under the abbreviation of STEM; these are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (see In this book we have chosen to include science, mathematics, computing and design and technology. These four subjects all rely very heavily on qualitative values or numbers. Of course, curiosity manifests itself in all subjects, for example, in the study of English, English literature, the arts and the humanities. Sadly, we don't, in this book, have space for all primary subjects. This book considers the teaching for learning of our identified four Primary STEM subjects, which like all subjects require a degree of curiosity. Or perhaps it is better to say that these subjects benefit from learners and teachers who display curiosity?

    Structure of the Book

    Following the introduction, the book is divided into pairs of chapters in which the first chapter sets out the meaning of curiosity in the particular subject and how the subject can enhance a learner's curiosity. The authors consider examples of individuals, who through their curiosity have been leaders in their field. They include references to the National Curriculum (DfE, 2013). They will refer to relevant literature including Ofsted and other reports. The second chapter will then draw on case study and other exemplary material, which will mean that by the end of each pair of chapters readers will:

    • understand the relevance of curiosity to that subject;
    • know which aspects of the subject are most influenced by curiosity;
    • see how curiosity in teachers can enable curiosity in learners in the subject;
    • appreciate a wide range of ways to develop curiosity through examples given.

    The introductory chapter reviews the thinking of writers and researchers who have considered curiosity in people and younger learners. Chapters on mathematics, science, design and technology and computing then follow.

    In the mathematics chapters we will see how curiosity is linked to mathematics in terms of content, aims (fluency, problem solving, reasoning), skills and the attributes of mathematical thinkers (DfE, 2013). It will show that at its very heart mathematics itself is curious about number, proportionality, geometry, etc. This chapter will refer to the beauty and romance of mathematics through approaches such as a mathematically curious classroom. It will also consider how Stephen Hawking exploited curiosity to seek answers to some of the most complex questions in the universe.

    In science, curiosity is seen as the key driver which leads to scientific questions and in some cases profound questions and answers. It will refer to the National Curriculum (DfE, 2013) and the place of curiosity within ‘Working Scientifically’ and in relation to science ideas and phenomena in the world. It will provide examples and draw from evidence including Ofsted's Maintaining Curiosity (2013) and consider the degrees of curiosity which might be observed in different children. The chapter will use Mary Anning as an example of a person who was curious about the interestingly shaped rocks she found on the beach.

    Computing is the newest subject to the curriculum (DfE, 2013). Computing will be presented as a medium/world for exploration through programming or coding, debugging and computer networks. It will include simple approaches such as exploring algorithms in ‘computing unplugged’ through to more complex programming with a range of languages such as Scratch Junior, Scratch, Python, Logo, etc. There will be clear reference to tinkering with code, debugging and how internet searches occur.

    Curiosity about design and technology is about curiosity in the man-made world of artefacts where children confidently build and display curious behaviours (e.g. exploring the strength of materials, observing how doings work, how things are made/ assembled). It will link to the National Curriculum (DfE, 2013) and to ideas about design and technology. It will consider lessons for the psychology of learning (e.g. schema, when do children start to display this behaviour?) and link to Kimbell et al.'s (1991) interaction of hand and mind in design and technology. It will consider aesthetics and the different responses of individuals to problems and design briefs.

    The final chapter of this book will consider how the four (primary) STEM subjects can be used in an integrated and immersive way, and offers a different pedagogical style of teaching and learning which fuels curiosity and curious learners.

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