The Mathematics of Measuring the Solar System

Dates and times

This online course consists of 4 sessions: 4-5pm daily on 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th April 2021. 


Free. A generous donation from a Potential Plus UK member has fully funded this course and so there is no charge to participants.

Course details

 Age recommendation 11-14 year olds

The Mathematics of Measuring the Solar System: a series looking at the development of understanding of our place in the universe. Combining mathematical skills with astronomy concepts, this course will include suggested things to do in between the sessions and after the end of the course! 
Session 1: How to Measure the Earth
Exploring an ancient method for gauging the size of our home.
Session 2: From the Earth to the Moon
Sizing up our constant companion.
Session 3: Going Round in Ellipses
A relatively - but not absolutely - enormous discovery by Johannes Kepler rings the changes taking place in humanity's understanding of the Solar System.
Session 4: Transition
Filling a hole in Kepler's work.


Course leader

 This session will be led by maths educator Tom Briggs. 



Please notify Potential Plus UK as soon as possible if you are no longer able to attend the course as it is likely there will be a waiting list of interested parties who could benefit from an newly available place.  


Online Workshop Checklist

• The series will be delivered via Zoom. You do not need to create an account on Zoom. Instead, a participating hyperlink and meeting ID will be shared with you at time of booking. You can copy the hyperlink into your address bar or, if using an App, use the ID to join the meeting.

• Please arrive on time for the workshop. All sessions have a virtual waiting room in which you can wait. Late arrivals may not be spotted by the provider. If you know that you are going to be late, please inform the provider (via Potential Plus UK if necessary) so they can watch out for you in the waiting room. When arriving late, or needing to leave early, please just do so quietly and without fuss, leaving a message on Chat if you like.

• Please display the child's first name (and perhaps initial of surname) on your Zoom screen - you do this by going to 'Participants', selecting your name and More and then you will have an option to Rename. This is important for registration and safeguarding reasons and so that the course leader can communicate with your child more effectively.

• The child (participant) should be in a room with an open door and parents/guardians must ensure that a trusted adult shall be on the same premises while the workshop takes place. If the leader has any concerns that this is not the case, they will ask the participant to leave the workshop.

• Parents can be present in the room for the workshop, but they should allow their child to be the participant and keep intervention to a minimum. The parent should not correspond with other participants but simply be there to support their child with practicalities (and for moral support in those less confident with this way of working). Adults must stay off screen except for brief moments of technical support when necessary.

• Do not use virtual backgrounds. These cause ‘flashing’ for other participants and hide a background and possible observers which contravenes our safeguarding policy.

• Participants are expected to dress appropriately, as if you were meeting in person. If there is inappropriate attire, the leader will ask the participant to rectify this or the participant will be asked to leave the workshop. No pyjamas please!

• Participants are expected to behave with consideration and respect for others. Any deliberate disruptions may result in the participant being asked to leave the workshop.

• Participants need to be able to sit close to the screen and limit movements to those required to participate in the activities. Lots of movement causes immense distraction for others, far more than in a real-life classroom environment. The child must be able to sit still like this for the duration of the session (excluding toilet breaks and any other necessary fetching of assistance of course!). Participants are expected to give the workshop and their workshop provider their full attention. Please do not be seen on screen reading a book or playing with a toy. If a fidget toy is needed, this should be kept off screen.

• Please do not eat on screen during the session.

• If correspondence outside the online workshop is required (submission of things produced, for example), this should be done via a parent and their email (or other) account and never directly with the child.

• Remain on mute unless directed by your workshop leader to come off mute. Background noise is extremely distracting and often distressing for other participants.


Further Advice

• Log into your workshop from a distraction-free, quiet environment. It is extremely distracting for others if we can see lots of other things happening in the background of your screen.

• Your course leader may ask you to use the “Raise Hand” feature (on the bottom left of the Participants window). They might prefer you to physically raise your hand instead. Listen for their instructions.
• If your course leader is happy for you to use the feature, use the Chat box to make a point or ask a question. Chat box will have two options – to chat just to the course leader or to make a comment to Everyone. Listen to how your leader has asked you to correspond. You will not be able to have a private conversation with any other individuals in the class.
• Be aware that it is very difficult and complex for the course leader to be scanning screens and the Chat box whilst delivering their session. Please exercise patience if they have not responded to a signal from you and try again at an opportune moment.

• Close unneeded applications on your computer to optimize the video quality.

• Make sure your video is on (if you have camera capabilities) so your teacher and peers can see you. If you feel too uncomfortable to do this, inform Potential Plus UK or your course leader in advance of the session.

• Remember to sign out or “leave the meeting” when the session is finished. Parents may need to intervene at this point, but please leave the meeting as soon as possible once directed.