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.


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.

Resources provided

This Case Study is in the form of a self-contained application for PCs with MS Windows. It is primarily intended for use with a data projector or interactive whiteboard. All the required resources can be accessed from within the application.

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)

  • Software requires a PC with MS Windows. The software in this Case Study is not suitable for Apple Macs, but the individual PDF resources can be viewed and printed, and the videos can be played with VLC.
  • 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.
  • Pupils require string, rulers, compasses and small counters.