Numeracy: Animals in danger

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By John Spoonerclassteacher and freelance writer, Norfolk

The issues surrounding endangered species are an excellent focus for maths skills


Maths helps us to understand the natural world. It enables us to appreciate the weight of the rhino, the length of the whale and the speed of the cheetah. Mathematical data can bring these animals to life in the classroom by giving them a quantifiable shape and form.

Outside the classroom, mathematics is one of the tools that helps conservation agencies to keep animals alive. The figures are quite startling: one species of plant or animal becomes extinct every 20 minutes and experts predict that 50 per cent of all living birds and mammals will be extinct in the next 200-300 years.

A study of the fossil records tells us that species have always become extinct – dinosaurs are an obvious example. There have been periods of mass extinctions in the past, but this one is different: it’s between 100 and 1000 times faster than normal rates and it’s directly attributable to the activities of mankind. Habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, pollution, global warming and over-fishing are having disastrous consequences for wildlife.

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