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WHTW – Magic Gopher, Shape Sorting, Indices and Vectors

January 15, 2018

Busy week as always. Some nice finds and experiences this week.

Magic Gopher

In the 1089 project, we prove that the process always leads to 1089 for a 3-digit number. As a precursor to that, another teacher showed us all a nice website that has a simpler ‘think of a number’ effect that really impressed my students.


It was great to work through the algebra with them and for them to really ‘get’ why the trick was working. There were some actual jaw drop moments, especially when the gopher was right twice in a row with a different symbol each time!

As an aside, I kept catching myself referring to the gopher as ‘he’. Must stop doing that.

Shape Sorting

The battle to correct misconception about shape names continues.


shape sorting standards

Our head of maths showed us a nice standards unit that has a lot of scope for playing around with classifying shapes. I didn’t bother printing the grids out and some students thought to just use pens/pencils to recreate the grid on their page. There were good discussions such as:

  • Should the circle go in the ‘has no right angles’ group?
  • Does a square have two pairs of equal sides?
  • Can a shape have ‘one side equal’?

I incorrectly named an angle as obtuse when it was really reflex and a normally fairly quiet student felt happy to correct me. That was good to see.

I also used this site in a computer room and it does a lot to work on these sorts of categorisations.

shape sorting online

Students have suggested I should write a ‘My First Shapes Book – a Maths Teacher’s version’ and I honestly think there’s some scope in that. One for the ‘to do’ list.


When discussing trapeziums, two separate students said:

  • My primary school teacher said that’s the one that if you turn it upside down, it looks like a flower pot.
  • It’s the thing that elephants stand on.

Probably some more to do here then.


Had a really solid lesson where students just practised the skills of multiplying, dividing and raising a power to a power.

Some year 9 students were able to get their head around rewriting powers in a different base. eg rewrite 8³ as a power of 2. This was a good stretch for those that had solidly understood the main points.


Year 11 students are finding this either easy or very hard. There isn’t a middle ground. I need to find some ‘prove that these are a straight line questions’ that are more structured.

Mock year 12 exams this week so that will be interesting to mark. More to come next week.

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