How da Vinci is teaching Darling Downs maths students

Five centuries ago, Leonardo da Vinci scribbled plans for a flying machine and parachute.
14 Sep 2018

Untested designs, but conceived a great many years before their modern-day equivalents.

Now, da Vinci’s latest students can be found in Toowoomba as part of a Year Five maths enrichment program.

Students from across Toowoomba and surrounds, including Crow’s Nest, Kingsthorpe and Pittsworth, have explored the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) through the lens of Da Vinci’s machines that didn’t work.

USQ Mathematics Curriculum and Pedagogy lecturer Alwyn Powell said the activities prompted the students to view maths in a new light.

“It challenges their problem-solving skills by looking at real examples,” he said.

“For example, they’ve each made a model of da Vinci’s parachute using card, straws, matchsticks and bamboo skewers.

“Using this pyramid-shaped model, they then consider Erik Demaine’s (MIT) one-cut theory to develop a more sophisticated parachute.”

Mr Powell said it was a different way to teach mathematics.

“Math is so much more diverse than just numbers and often we race to formulas without gaining a full understanding of the concept,” he said.
Cate Hogno from Middle Ridge State School said the program was a lot of fun.

“I like math at school but this is different - it’s not just all sums and algorithms. It explains how things work,” she said.

Also part of the class, St Finbarr's students ‘zoomed in’ from Quilpie thanks to a live video link. This is part of USQ’s commitment to engage with students in remote locations to ensure “Ever child - Every chance” and the collaboration agreement with the Diocese of Toowoomba.

While Cate, a Year Five student, doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up, she has an idea.

“Definitely something to do with maths!”

little girl smiling
Students from across Toowoomba and surrounds explored the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) through the lens of Da Vinci’s machines at USQ.