A medieval approach to maths
Modern-day mathematicians and physicists went medieval at Palmerston North Boys High School yesterday and the impact is likely to be felt in classrooms next year.
Students manned two trebuchets and a mangonel from ancient weaponry group 22AD, plotting trajectories as they adjusted variables such as counterweights, missiles and the length of slings.
"The variables make it perfect for us," said head of mathematics Howard Pinder. "The boys are getting right into things - putting on helmets, loading and firing the machines and also learning about teamwork and co-operation.
"It wouldn't be the same if the instructors made them sit back and watch while they did everything.
"It is hard to get students this involved in anything at this time of year, but none of them are holding back."
Even before the practical classes were over, the teachers were in a huddle working out how they could get trebuchets of their own for next year. Mr Pinder said the likely course was to buy plans and build the machines under the direction of 22AD.
"We definitely want to use them for modelling in physics and mathematics classes and we have six statistics classes. We have to work out the safety implications, do costings and arrange some training, but look at the kids. They're loving it."
Trebuchets and mangonels were two of the siege weapons used in medieval times. Much larger versions than those at the school were used to batter down castle walls. The machines were designed and built by Murray Hill of Palmerston North-based 22AD (AD stands for Artillery Division). Mr Hill is a former army NCO with a love for medieval and Roman weaponry.
Assisted by Sean White, he first coached the students in safe use of the machines and then supervised them during the firings.
"It's an opportunity to get the kids excited about an application of mathematics," he said.
"It will give them a better frame of reference for how trigonometry applies for example."