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Nobody is scared of a triangle

26 May 2017

Sue Skyrme; consultant, National Numeracy

Sue Skyrme

Festival of Triangles celebration

I'm a huge fan of events that promote positive attitudes to maths and engage parents in fun activities, so was delighted to get involved with the Festival of Triangles this year.

The Festival is a partnership between the London SE Maths Hub and family maths charity, Maths on Toast. They provide all the resources and support to any school that wants to hold their own event and bring parents and children together.

On 26th April, I joined in with an event hosted by Redriff Primary School in London.  

Why triangles?

Triangles are a simple maths idea everyone can grasp, and they turn up all over the place; on signs, buildings, boats, even cheese. They also lend themselves to craft and at Redriff, every child – from reception up –  created triangles from bendy drinking straws. Together they used these to construct triangle pyramids, or "tetrahedrons", to use their official name. Each one ultimately contributed towards the construction of a Sierpinski structure – a more complex looking triangle, subdivided into smaller triangles within.

Parents, governors, pupils and teachers were engaged in making a giant Sierpinski triangle, which took up a fair amount of floor space. It was an amazing activity to witness and everyone wanted to get involved.

Developing other skills

What's great about the Festival of Triangles is that it's also used to teach underlying maths skills, like effort and persistence, and gives parents and children a chance to enjoy doing maths together. They learn new words and become comfortable with the idea of a special maths vocabulary. 

Other fun activities that were on offer:

  • A creative table to explore how to make other shapes 
  • A tangram puzzle
  • A quiet corner to colour in triangle patterns
  • Games and challenges such as "Guess how many triangles", extending "Pascal’s Triangle" and a tetrahedron factory

This was all complemented by a table of triangular-shaped food and a Triangular Smile song. Dame Professor Celia Hoyles from UCL concluded the evening with a reflection on geometry, education and the aims of the National Centre of Excellence in the Teaching of Maths (NCETM)


festival of triangles parent and childrenRedriff promoted their event over a few weeks to really build a buzz and get everyone excited for the big event, even those staff that had openly admitted their lack of enthusiasm for maths in general.  This helped to make it a monumental success.

Schools who have held their own festival often report a change in attitudes of both children and parents in terms of their level of enthusiasm towards maths. One parent said, “We had to go to Tesco on the way home to buy more straws; my son demanded that the tetrahedron went to bed with him that night!”

The Festival of Triangles is a wonderful example of engaging families through fun activities and helping parents see opportunities for mathematical conversations and activities in everyday life. It widens the learning environment beyond the school and contributes to dispelling negative maths myths. As Maths on Toast say:  "In a country where a lot of adults are anxious about maths, nobody is scared of a triangle”. 

How to get involved

To hold your own Festival of Triangles event, get in touch with Maths on Toast using the details below. You'll be sent a "maths week in a box" with all sorts of fun activities, including resources and templates and advice on marketing a whole school or community event.


[email protected]