18 June 2016

Maths School Trips

This post provides a list of maths school trip destinations. I've included five recommendations here and I hope that readers will add their own recommendations and experiences in the comments below. I'd like to build up a comprehensive list of trip destinations all over the UK and perhaps include a few overseas trips too.

Although I've led a handful of maths trips over the years, I've never taken a whole year group out of school. All of the trips I've planned involved relatively small numbers of students. It can be hard to justify the cost and time involved in a cohort-wide maths trip. That's not to say that enrichment isn't important, but it may be more practical to bring maths enrichment into school (see my post about in-school speakers and workshops for details).

1. Legoland
I recently visited Legoland Windsor for a demonstration of their Lego Robotics - Space Challenge workshop. I was absolutely blown away by how brilliant it was. This maths and programming workshop is aimed at Key Stage 2 and 3. It was really fun and I think most kids would come away from this workshop excited about coding. Legoland is expensive for families to visit so I thought it wouldn't be a viable option for school trips, but I stand corrected. School trips are only £12.25 per head for secondary school children at peak time, plus £2.50 for a workshop and £3 for lunch, so you're looking at under £20 a head plus travel (full price details here). The robotics workshop takes 45 minutes and students spend the rest of the day enjoying themselves at Legoland, which is one of the country's top attractions.
2. Racecourse Days
Racecourse Days take place at 59 racecourses all over the country. Examples schedules are available here. I've heard great things about these trips. Activities include visiting the Weighing Room, which is where jockeys prepare themselves before each race. Students find out about the relationship between weight and performance in racing and how the handicapping system works. In the 'Photo Finish' activity, students discuss distances, the condition of the going and other factors that may affect a horse’s performance. They also learn about the technology of the photo finish and winning distances, plus judge some close finishes for themselves. Sounds fascinating to me - and it's all free! So the only costs involved are travel, lunch, insurance and school administrative fees.

3. Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes, was Britain's main decryption establishment during World War II. It's a popular destination for school trips. It offers a variety of facilitated one hour workshops, suitable for Key Stages 3, 4 and 5, with specific focus on history, mathematics and computing. The cost is £10 per head. Information about secondary workshops is available here. The maximum capacity for students is 180 so if you come from a large school (mine has 240 in a year group) you'd have to split the trip over two days.

4. London Museums
There are loads of destinations for maths school trips in London. I have listed a few here:
The Bank of England Museum. 
This is my personal favourite (I did the graduate training scheme at the Bank of England back in 2002). The museum's one hour 'Pounds and Pence' talk is aimed at Key Stage 2 and 3 and encourages students to think about the value of money and prices and their spending and saving decisions. 'Keeping on an even keel' is aimed at Key Stage 4 and 5 - it explains what the Bank does to an even keel keep inflation low, maintain trust in its banknotes and keep the financial system stable. Admission and presentations are all free of charge. Note that these trips are only suitable for smallish groups (up to 50). 
Royal Museums Greenwich (including the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum and the Queen's House) are good destinations for maths school trips. We visited them during my PGCE course and I was particularly taken with the Queen's House - I loved its wonderful Great Hall (a perfect cube).
Workshops at the Royal Museums Greenwich include 'Maths and the Milky Way' for Key Stage 3 and 4, in which students explore the scale and variety of planets in our Solar System and in other planetary systems in our Milky Way Galaxy using a range of mathematical techniques.
The British Museum
The British Musuem's two hour teacher-led Maths Challenge looks like fun. Groups of students rotate through up to nine activities in different galleries, completing challenges which focus on developing students’ mathematical thinking. I particularly like the task in which students look at a colossal granite arm in the Egyptian sculpture gallery and attempt to determine the size of the statue that this arm came from. The maximum group size is 70. 

The Mathematics Gallery at the Science Museum
The new maths gallery is due to open in December 2016 and will undoubtedly be an excellent destination for maths school trips. Similar locations further afield include the Museum of Mathematics in New York and the Mathematikum in Germany.

5. Maths Lectures
The most inspiring thing I've done since becoming a maths teacher was attend a day of Mathematics in Action lectures. I took 20 Year 12s along and it was brilliant. Maths Inspiration events are similar. This national programme of interactive maths lecture shows for 14-17 year olds features an awesome line-up of speakers such as Matt Parker and Hannah Fry.
The Royal Institution runs Masterclasses all over the country. These events typically take place on Saturday mornings, with schools sending a small group of their keenest Key Stage 3 mathematicians.

The best school trip I've ever been on was actually organised by my previous school's Physics Department. I paid to go along. We chartered a plane, took off from Gatwick in the evening and flew over the Shetland Islands. I saw the Northern Lights (amazing!) and awe-inspiring constellations. Our plane circled for a while then flew home the same night. It was one of the most wonderful things I have ever experienced, demonstrating the power of a good school trip.
The view from my window...

Please add a comment below to let me know your school trip recommendations and experiences. Thanks!


  1. We are heading to Paris in a few weeks to go to the Science Museum and Disney Land Paris :).

    1. You lucky thing - sounds fun! Is there a mathematical element to the Disney part?

  2. My son would refuse to go to Racecourse Days and I would support him in his decision. He is against horse races because they are cruel.

    1. I'm sure the school would respect his opinion and allow him to stay behind. No-one is ever forced to go on a trip.

    2. really? are you serious?

  3. Thanks for the following comments via Twitter:

    Peter Atkinson (‏@peteatkinson83) recommended the Wembley Stadium Learning Zone. He said it was great for inspiring low attaining Y7s (using catch-up funding to subsidise the trip). They completed a series of numeracy tasks centred around the stadium as a concert venue (rather than football), and had a guided tour.

    MrsG (@MrsGRVHS) is off to CERN in Geneva soon. Sue de Pomerai ‏(@suedepom) also recommended CERN for sixth form.

    MrsG'S (@MrsGRVHS) son went on a whole year maths trip to Frankfurt for Year 9. They went to maths museum and stock exchange.

    Nicola Amies ‏(@AmiesNicola) loves the BHEST racecourse days I mentioned above. They are fun, and free! She also suggests the Big Bang Fair - it's free to get in and there's absolutely loads to do.

    Jo Knowles (‏@littlemissk149) agrees that BHEST racecourse days are brilliant but warns that they get booked up quickly.

  4. I took year 7 & 8 to Bletchley park and they loved it!

  5. MoMath in New York is amazing :)

  6. We took year 7 to the DEEP in Hull.
    I created a maths trail around the deep which takes about 1 hr 30 mins.
    The students then bring a pack up and have lunch in the observatory area.
    In the afternoon the students then take part in a 'deep decisions' workshop where they are given a budget and have to buy fish to put in tanks.
    On certain days as well the students can watch a diving show.
    This is a lovely day out and the students enjoy it.
    Entry to the deep and the workshop is about £6.50 per student and then you need to pay for travel.
    Highly recommend this trip for anyone in the Lincolnshire area.

    1. This sounds fantastic, thank you for the recommendation.

    2. Do you still have the resources for this-we would be interested in doing something similar!

  7. I took my son to see Standup Maths Matt Parker and his team ( Festival of the Nerd) at Soho Theatre http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/festival-of-the-spoken-nerd - he loved it. Supposed to be 16+ - my son is year 11. I love the Standup Maths youtube videos - inspirational maths :-)

  8. Thanks for your lovely comments about Maths in Action - I organise these lectures. It's really nice to hear that your year 12s enjoyed themselves and when (!) you come again please ask to chat to me (David) because I'd love to meet you. Alternatively just message me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ttp.education/

  9. I'd like more details of thus trip and would appreciate a copy of your maths trail. I run 3 maths trips a year and always looking for new ideas

  10. I co run a trip to the National Space Centre in Leicester. A great day out and will be trying a maths trail to encourage students to see as much as possible.

  11. The University of Birmingham offer some Maths related visits through their outreach team as do AMSP, both are free for small groups of pupils.

  12. The Legoland trip - hopefully someone who has been could give me a bit more info. I'm thinking about taking a group of Y7 or Y8 students. They'd do the Robotics workshop as mentioned above (max group size 16). When students are not in the workshop, Legoland seems to state that students are not allowed to move around the park on their own - they must be accompanied at all times. Does this really mean that they'd have to remain in 'large' groups with a member of staff on all rides etc?