Alien Invasion


Alien Invasion

Pupils solve non-routine mathematical problems arising from an alien invasion, using maps and data extracted from TV bulletins, radio reports and mobile phone messages.


The case study is a set of interactive lessons about a full-scale alien attack that coincides with a class visit to Manford City. To set the scene and support the lessons, live TV news bulletins, radio broadcasts and phone messages develop the story line. Each lesson ends with a 'cliff hanger' intended to enhance pupils' interest and to lead into homework tasks. The invasion leads to a series of non-routine problems for pupils to solve as the narrative unfolds. The problems are on the theme of mathematical communication and promote discussion, reasoning and creativity.

The case study can be used as an opportunity for pupils to apply and use skills that they have previously been taught and to see connections between mathematical topics. Alternatively, it can be used to introduce or extend skills. Mathematical activities include estimating and calculating measures, interpreting graphs and maps, code breaking and problem solving.

Revised in 2019 - should now work on PCs, Macs, Tablets, Chromebooks etc. without Flash.


The Assesment Guide for Alien Invasion is comprehensive guide to help teachers to assess pupils' achievement and progression as they work on the activities. It includes sample work, progression charts and an optional, supplementary assessment task.

Assessment Guide (PDF) Editable version (DOCX)

Mathematical content

Use clues to estimate and calculate distances and directions. Interpret graphs and maps; crack a code. General problem solving.

Specific Key Stage 3 National Curriculum areas covered include:

  • Key processes - choose between representations of a situation from the real world; analyse them using mathematical procedures; promote discussion, reasoning and creativity; interpret and analyse results, reflect on and communicate them
  • Number and algebra - calculate with, and manipulate rational numbers; use and apply ratio and proportion; accuracy and rounding; linear equations and formulae; graphical methods; sequences and functions.
  • Geometry and measures - properties of 2D shapes; measure and draw angles; scale; units, compound measures and conversions.
  • Statistics - apply the handling data cycle; measures of central tendency; probabilities.
  • Curriculum opportunities - work on problems that arise in other subjects; work collaboratively as well as independently in a range of contexts.

Organisation and pedagogy

The case study supports four hour-long lessons of classroom activity that could be extended to six periods to accommodate preparatory teaching. The pupils work in groups with some whole class activity. The lessons are punctuated with regular breaking news bulletins, a commander requesting assistance, SOS messages and radio broadcasts. The mathematics in the unit is suitable for pupils of average and above average attainment in Years 8 or 9, but could also suit higher attaining Year 7 pupils.

Homework tasks are included - the first homework task is essential to the progress of the unit, but the others are optional.

The solutions are available here:

Solutions (PDF)

Resources provided

This Case Study is in the form of a collection of videos, audio clips, slideshows, printable resource sheets and teachers' guides, presented via a self-contained website.

Materials include:

  • Introductory notes and lesson plans for teachers.
  • Videos, audio clips and slides which tell the story and present the problems.
  • Pupil resource sheets to print.

Resource requirements

(including hardware & software)

  • Intended for use with an internet connection and a modern (HTML5) web-browser. The complete package can be downloaded for local use - either by opening the file 'start.html' in a web browser or by accessing the individual PDF and MP4 files (which most current devices can open).
  • All lessons require a computer and data projector (or interactive whiteboard).
  • Sound output and speakers suitable for whole class use are needed.
  • Individual pupils do not require computers - the materials can be viewed on most tablets or smartphones, but the project was designed for whole-class teaching.
  • Pupils require string, rulers, compasses and small counters.

2019 Revision

The old Windows-only application has been replaced with a web-based version that should work on Windows, Mac, iPad and most other devices. The materials are otherwised unchanged.

If you need the old (Windows-only) version for any reason it is available here:

Old Windows-only version (.zip)