Home > News and views > View all

Using GIFs to teach secondary mathematics

Published: Aug 2, 2016 2 min read

michael anderson

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is never truer than when attempting to explain a concept in the mathematics classroom.

STEM Associate Joe Bayfield recently asked:

Do you insert GIFs into your PowerPoints?

He argued that GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format- a moving image) can be a powerful tool in science lessons to engage students and explain concepts. In mathematics teaching, this is certainly the case too.

Explaining topics such as tessellations, the sieve of Eratosthenes, pi, polar coordinates, and radians - there is a GIF to help explain it.

There are many ways to show Pythagoras’ Theorem, but few have the same effect on students as this demonstration: 

Many students never appreciate the relationship between the unit circle and the sine and cosine waves. Could your students explain the relationship demonstrated in this animation?​

Non-specialists sites such as www.giphy.com or www.imgur.com contain some interesting mathematical content that can be copied into presentations. A quick internet search will bring up a range of maths GIFs, including this list of seven Trigonometry examples. A range of mathematics inspired animations can also be found on Wikipedia Commons.

You can even have a go at making your own using YouTube videos. Alternatively, why not challenge your students to make their own mathematical GIF over the summer holiday? You might be surprised at what they can create.

Feel free to share your GIF ideas in the comment section below. 

Finally, with the increased mathematical content in design and technology, you may want to develop some cross-curricula discussions using this hypnotic video!