Maths in the Real World: Calculation

Session details


Museum based

Curriculum Links
Maths (number, calculation)
History (technology)

Key Stage 3
Suitable for Year 7

Length of session
75-90 minutes

Maximum group size
24 students


In this session students will:


  • Explore the Museum’s collection of mathematical instruments
  • Be inspired by hands-on activities with historical calculators
  • Discover the story of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace


This workshop will inspire students who may be less confident with maths through hands-on activities with the Museum’s amazing collection of calculating instruments, reinforcing concepts about number and calculation including place value, addition, subtraction and multiplication.

We start with a trail to find and explore instruments in the Museum's collection.

This is followed by hands-on activities and calculations using abacuses, Napier's bones, and 1950s Lightning Adding Machines.

We also introduce 19th-century mathematicians Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace and learn about their extraordinary attempt to build the Analytical Engine - the world's first full-scale mechanical computer.

A small part of Charles Babbage's first prototype mechanical computer - the Difference Engine - is on display in the Museum.