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Principia mission - maths in space

On December 15th 2015 European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake launched on the six month Principia mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Principia was named after Isaac Newton’s Naturalis Principia Mathematica, describing the principal laws of motion and gravity.

The education and inspiration of young people is a core element of the Principia mission.

This collection of mathematics resources is aimed at teachers of key stage 2, 3 and 4 students (age 7 to 16), and is closely linked to elements of the mathematics national curriculums of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales which can be taught in new and stimulating ways. Children can explore familiar and unfamiliar mathematical ideas relating to Tim’s Principia mission, including estimation, measures, combinations, permutations and probability.

The resource comes in three packs that each focus on different areas of the principia mission:

  • Pack 1: How much do you eat? An exploration of how Tim Peake will get six months’ worth of food to the International Space Station.

  • Pack 2: Exploring combinations, permutations, factorials and probability surrounding Tim Peake’s Mission to the International Space Station.

  • Pack 3: The speeds, distances and times involved in getting to the International Space Station, including additional Fermi Estimation style questions.

This teacher guide, and the resources that accompany it, can be used in a number of different ways:

  • Following the activities in sequence will cover the curriculum links listed within. This might be done as part of a themed week, or over a series of sessions.

  • Teachers can pick and choose which activities, resources and links to use and when – they can be used independently of each other.

  • Teachers may wish to present children, in class or as part of an extra-curricular activity, with the activities only.


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