Taking a closer look at Learnalot’s Cops and Robbers resource

Launched at BETT 2011, Learnalot is an educational portal that specialises in Key Stage 3 maths and which aims to engage learners through real-life problem-based case studies with immersive themes and contemporary graphics that appeal to young learners and make learning maths fun.

Each Learnalot resource consists of three activities; each one taking between 40 minutes and one hour to complete in class. Each activity covers a different area of the syllabus that is relevant to the resource's theme, from dealing with budgets, loans and interest rates in Britain's Got Power to working with co-ordinates and distances in Cops and Robbers.
Looking in more depth at the Cops and Robbers resource, which covers Levels 4 to 7 of the National Curriculum and is aimed at KS3, we’re given the role of a successful and well-respected Detective Inspector. It’s down to us to lead the man-hunt for four fugitives who have recently escaped from the city prison. By investigating sightings, examining crime scene evidence and deciphering coded tip-offs from frightened members of the public, we must secure the recapture of these individuals before they commit any further offences.
There are three activities to choose between within the Cops and Robbers resource, depending on which aspect of maths is being taught:
Activity One
This activity is aimed at Levels 4, 5, 6 and 7 at KS3. To tackle this activity, we need to plot a graph of the maximum possible speeds at which the fugitives were travelling at any given moment since their escape in order to establish the widest necessary search area.
We then need to answer questions relating to the search area, including its area and circumference and the number of officers required in the search.
Finally we need to answer questions relating to the location of possible sightings and the location of the officers best placed to investigate.
Activity Two
This activity is aimed at Levels 4, 5, 6 and 7 at KS3. Here, we are required to resolve simultaneous equations to work out which of two possible escape plans were used by the fugitives and the specifics of that plan. A digital notepad is provided for working out.
Using a code key, we must then decipher a coded message that has been submitted by a paranoid member of the public in order to establish which fugitive they have seen.
Activity Three
This activity is aimed at Levels 4 and 5 at KS3. We need to rotate and reflect photographs that have been distorted by the troublesome forensics printer in order to return them to their original state before handing them out to investigating officers. The photographs may have been rotated through 90, 180 or 270 degrees, reflected in the X or Y axis or could have been subjected to combinations of each.
Importantly, both the questions and the underlying data in all the Learnalot resources are randomly generated to ensure that no two sessions are the same. This also prevents learners from memorising answers and from copying from friends.
Other features of Cops and Robbers, and indeed most of the Learnalot resources, include leaderboards to encourage competition between classmates and between schools, a high-end presentation with graphics and audio that engage young learners, and a ‘Teachers' Area’ that includes lesson plans, worksheets and teachers' notes that outline learning outcomes and help prepare the students for the resources.
There is also an ‘Administration Area’ where teachers can administer student accounts and monitor their students' progress across all of the resources and games. This allows them to set homework and ensure that any topic that a student is struggling with is quickly identified for further attention.
The subject matter of the Cops and Robbers resource is compelling and will likely lead to an enthusiastic class of budding Sherlocks, all vying to solve their activity whilst achieving the highest score. The activities are interesting, engaging and challenging but still remain focussed on the primary aim of developing maths ability and understanding.
If your appetite for Cops and Robbers has been whetted, why not enter the Learnalot competition to win a laptop, simply by posting the highest score on the Cops and Robbers resource! For more details, click here. The closing date for entries is 14 February 2011.

A 14 day trial of Learnalot in general is also available, should you wish to try it out before joining the 40 schools across the UK that have already subscribed. Click here for more information.
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