Pupils assume the role of space explorers and are presented with three related challenges. They plan routes, trade between planets and use coordinates to destroy asteroids.


Pupils assume the role of various characters scratching a living at the very edge of our galaxy in 2084. They develop the skills of thinking, reasoning and problem solving as they undertake three activities in an era of reclaimed space vessels patched up beyond recognition and with barely competent crew members. They have to find a safe route through a dangerous nebula, trade goods between distant planets and destroy asteroids blocking a space highway using sonic charges.

The mathematics involved includes comparing probabilities, conversions between different currencies and working with linear and quadratic equations. The Case Study includes a series of graphically rich, engaging, exploratory applets, as well as complementary paper-based tasks, follow-ups and homework tasks. Pupils can work on the tasks in small collaborative groups or individually.

Mathematical content

Plan a route taking account of fuel, food reserves and distance. Trade with currency conversions. Use algebraic functions to place explosive charges.

Specific Key Stage 3 National Curriculum areas covered include:

  • Key processes - analyse situations using mathematical procedures; interpret and evaluate; communicate mathematical reasoning and reflect on the results.
  • Number and algebra - using rules of arithmetic applied to calculations and manipulations with rational numbers; using and applying decimals, fractions and percentages; ratio and proportion; rounding and accuracy; using graphs to represent algebraic solutions.
  • Geometry and measures - scale; units, compound measures and conversions.
  • Statistics - applying the handling data cycle; understand and use estimates or measures of probability including equally likely outcomes and relative frequency.
  • Curriculum opportunities - work collaboratively and individually; thinking, reasoning and problem solving.

Organisation and pedagogy

The Case Study has been primarily designed for use in an ICT suite although the materials can be adapted for use in other circumstances, e.g. using a whiteboard or as a series of paper-based activities.

The three main activities are distinct and address different areas of mathematics. Each activity supports a one hour lesson of classroom activity, interspersed with modest amounts of homework, although they can be made shorter or longer as required. A mixture of class, group and individual work is involved. It is recommended that learners work in small groups in order to maximise the opportunities for collaboration and discussion. The Case Study is designed for use with average and higher ability learners in Years 8 and 9. The materials are suitable for adaptation for use in other circumstances, e.g. with lower ability learners.

Resources provided

This Case Study is in the form of a self-contained software application for use by pupils and teachers. The "teacher notes" area of the software contains:

  • Teacher notes.
  • Supporting worksheets to print out, including a 'Captain's Log' which students are encouraged to use to reflect on their own performance during the activities.
  • Detailed lesson plans for each of the three activities.

Resource requirements

(including hardware & software)

  • The software should run in any recent web browser with Adobe Flash Player installed. The recommended way to run it is direct from this website, but the complete package can be downloaded as a .zip file for offline use.
  • Some lessons require a computer for each pair or small group of students.