Babbage and Lovelace: Calculation

National Curriculum Science Area: Maths; calculation
Key Stage: 3
Length of session: 90 minutes
Maximum group size: 25 students

This workshop inspires students through the Museum's amazing collection of calculating instruments and reinforces concepts about number and calculation including place value, addition, subtraction and multiplication.

The session is adaptable and can either be pitched to support students less confident with maths or provide stimulus and enrichment to more able students.

Students follow an introductory trail and explore instruments in the museum's collection through demonstration and object handling. They then take part in a hands-on activity using the abacus, Napier's bones, and original 1950's Lightning Adding Machines.

In the second part, they meet 19th-century mathematicians Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace and learn about their extraordinary attempt to build the world's first full-scale mechanical computer. They experiment with mechanical models to discover how Babbage's calculating 'engine' worked.