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Everything you ever wanted to know about Numbers in Space

10 May 2024

Did you know you can become a time traveller? Or that astronauts grow in space? Or how long it would take humans to get to Mars?

National Numeracy has teamed up with The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) to take a deep dive into space with free resources and a video specially recorded for secondary schools as part of National Numeracy Day. 

numbers in space graphic

A fascinating and funny glimpse into how maths and numbers are used in space

Dr Sheila Kanani MBE,  Education, Outreach and Diversity Officer at the RAS, joins National Numeracy Ambassadors, the aerospace engineer  and current Miss UK Jessia Gagen and author, broadcaster and maths teacher Bobby Seagull to discuss all you ever wanted to know about numbers in space.

The trio offer a fascinating, funny and often surprising glimpse into how maths and numbers are used in space travel, careers in the space industry and much more besides. And they answer some questions from secondary schools, with very surprising results!

Astronomer and aerospace engineer have not always felt confident with maths

They also discuss their own feelings towards numbers and maths. And students may be surprised to learn than an astronomer and aerospace engineer have not always felt confident and comfortable with numbers!

Dr Sheila and Jessica are both a great example of how our feeling about numeracy can change over time. And many student will love to learn that you definitely don’t need to be a maths whizz to have a career in the space industry!

Dr Sheila said: “At school, I used to find maths quite challenging…And I just thought that because I wasn't good at maths, I couldn't be part of the space industry. But when I started to relate the maths to astronomy and space topics, that's when it started to make more sense.”

Jessica Gagen speaks about how she lost her confidence with maths at school, but later found a love of numbers: “A few years down the line, I thought: you know what, I believe in myself and it doesn't matter if it takes me a little bit longer to grasp a subject.”

Free resources for fun space-themed activities

Numbers in Space: Past and Future provides pupils with an opportunity to build confidence with numbers through watching the video and then trying their hands at two fun and practical classroom activities. 

Dr Sheila’s resource sheets offer two fantastic space-themed activities with inclusive numeracy at their core. The first enables children how to work out how old they would be on different planets and the second shows them how to become a time traveller!

The video and resources are all free and available on the National Numeracy Day hub and can be used at school or at home.

Sam Sims, CEO of National Numeracy said: "It is wonderful to hear all the fascinating facts and figures about numbers in space. Dr Sheila, Jessica and Bobby really bring the way numbers are used to life. We are very grateful for the support of the RAS, which is a Delivery Partner for National Numeracy Day 2024."