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Project guide: Improve maths and science lessons with Photos on iPad

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. When it comes to teaching, photography could provide a thousand lessons! It’s a great way for students to get hands-on in art or get snapping landscapes in geography – but let’s look at how you can use Photos on iPad to create inspiring and informative activities in maths and science…

Mike Laskey

Encouraging students to photograph the world around them and analyse the results is perfect for getting them thinking about storytelling and the power of an image. By capturing a specific action or movement, they’ll be able to make time stop still – and then carefully study a scientific or mathematical moment that might otherwise be hard to visualise or understand.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to create a great lesson with iPad in just four steps. We’re taking a leaf out of the Everyone Can Create: Teacher Guide by Apple; if you’ve not already downloaded the free guide, it’s well worth getting for plenty more lesson ideas and creative learning sessions.

Step 1: Find a moving subject

It’s time to get active! Thinking about your subject, decide on an action that would simultaneously make for an interesting photograph and give you a great talking point in class later on.

For maths, this could be as simple as getting students to photograph each other running across the playground, with a view to them calculating the speed at which they can reach the other side.

In science, your next experiment could be perfect – especially if there’s something eye-catching to catch on camera! This way, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly when a reaction occurs and get your students excited about chemistry.

A good idea might be a class practical on diffusion in liquids that gives students the chance to see colourless crystals form colourful compounds, like in this example lesson from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Whatever you choose, and whatever subject you’re teaching, just make sure that capturing a still moment in time will help your students identify a key event and see things from a different perspective..

Step 2: Get snapping with iPad

Ready to start? Ask your students to load up Camera on their iPads and explain how and why they’re about to photograph your event. It’s a good idea to explain the importance of taking lots of pictures one after the other – after all, they won’t want to miss out on the perfect shot!

With iPad, it’s easy to take brilliant photos of even the most fast-paced action. Encourage your students to take Live Photos to illustrate the motion of the moment, or use Burst mode to freeze the scene. (Top tip: Burst mode also allows you to calculate the time interval between photographs.)

To use Burst mode, tap and hold the shutter button for as long as you want to take photos, releasing it when you’re done. A counter at the bottom of the frame will rise, indicating how many shots are being captured in the burst.

To activate Live Photos mode, just look for its icon of concentric circles at the top of the frame (normally next to the ‘HDR’ options) and ensure it’s marked yellow, which means it’s toggled on. Your iPad will then record up to 1.5 seconds of video both before and after your shots to create something a bit like an animated GIF.

Another idea can be to try the time-lapse mode in Camera to capture the whole lesson in a nutshell, while slo-mo mode to is perfect for analysing those explosive experiments in finer detail. Simply swipe across the bottom of the screen to pick your chosen mode before pressing the shutter button.

Want to take things further? Your students could apply the Long Exposure effect to Live Photos, which will make moving objects appear blurred and can make for some really fun images. Perhaps different groups could use different techniques and compare the results with each other, too?


Step 3: Edit those photos

Hopefully, every student will now have at least one amazing image that perfectly captures your moment of choice. But with iPad, those amazing images could become even more beautiful in just a few clicks.

Together with your students, open up the Photos app and tap Edit. A wide range of options will now be available to you, such as Brightness and Saturation, adding filters and cropping or resizing. Show your students how these changes can drastically affect the overall look of an image and highlight or hide different elements.

Ask them also to try the Markup feature in iPadOS – which they can find by tapping Edit and then ‘More…’ – as a way of annotating their images with their own observations, chemical formulas or the equations relevant to your lesson.

What effects work best to depict your moment in time? You could even have a vote to see which edited photographs are your class’s favourites! 

Step 4: Draw some conclusions

With your budding photographers’ hard work on display, you can now use it to get them thinking about key learning points from your curriculum.

In our running across the playground example, students could look at the photos they took in Burst mode and work out how much distance each runner covered in the time between shots. By using the “average speed = distance ÷ time” rule, they can then use their artistic efforts to do some fun maths calculations!

And for those of you doing chemistry experiments, you can now explain the science behind ignition points or state changes while pointing to specific examples from your students’ photos. Pretty clever, eh?

Lessons learned

By following this project guide, your students will not only have learned valuable points from your core curriculum, but also improved their photography skills and gained a greater understanding of the storytelling power of still images.

Want to do more with iPad in your school? Check out our review of the Everyone Can Create: Photo On iPad book for more iPad photography ideas, or download our comprehensive training guide for workshops to support your teachers and leadership teams.

Interested in improving your use of Apple technology in lessons? Speak to our education experts about coaching and mentoring from Apple-accredited trainers. Get in touch with our team on 03332 409 290 or email For the latest news, follow us on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.

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