Off-the-shelf Masterclass: Curve stitching

Off-the-shelf Primary Mathematics Masterclass about beautiful parabola curves.

Explore parabolas occurring in nature, science and architecture and investigate the maths that underpins them. Create some of your own using fun techniques such as curve stitching.

  • Credit: Tigitogs via Flickr

About this Masterclass

Parabolas are beautiful mathematical shapes occurring in many every-day, scientific and natural contexts.

Through the demonstrations and activities in this session, students explore parabolas and their intriguing characteristics. They will learn about uses of parabolas in science and architecture as well as exploring natural parabolas such as the path a ball follows when thrown through the air. The students go on to create some of their own parabolas using a range of pleasing techniques such as paper folding and curve stitching.

Length: 2 hours (see the session leader notes for ideas on how to shorten the Masterclass).




Resources needed

  • Video of a ball being thrown -
  • 30cm rulers, one per student, and coloured pencils
  • Parabola drawing grid worksheet 
  • Parabolas in shapes worksheet (one per student)
  • Drawing pins, A6 card and foam boards to lean on/push pins through (a foam camping mat can be cut into around 30 pieces large enough for A6)
  • (Optional: different colours of A5 card to be folded into greetings cards, C6 envelopes and glue)
  • Sewing needles (medium sized) and threaders if needed
  • Coloured thread, in contrasting colours to the card - embroidery thread is a good thickness
  • Tape, to stick down the ends
  • Computer and data projector
  • Further details of quantities etc. can be found in Session Leader Notes


All supporting notes, worksheets and solutions can be downloaded from this page along with the Powerpoint presentation.

The Session Leader Notes offer full notes on the activities and a detailed list of resources, including quantities needed. For additional guidance, the session script gives a full run-through of the Masterclass.

The Session Helper Sheet can be distributed amongst helpers and an Additional Information Sheet giving more details on the history and background of the subject is provided for added interest.

Ask the Ri

You can collect any student questions and email them to the Ri Masterclass team at - we will endeavour to answer them before the next Masterclass in your series.

Masterclass series support

For more information on running a Masterclass series and the support, templates and other resources available to you, please get in touch via