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Nice starter – memory maths

Here’s a great starter called memory maths. (click on the one called memory maths)

A simple 4×4 grid.

Each one has a calculation to be done (choose from arithmetic or negatives).

Only two are shown at a time for 1 sec at a time.memory-maths

There are other starters to try out too. Thanks to Vic for sharing this.

Wrong, but Useful episode 37

Long term readers of this blog may know that I have a podcast with Colin Beveridge. This post is just to highlight it to a wider audience and pick up on a few aspects that we discussed.

Link to Wrong, but Useful episode 37. Or you can subscribe on iTunes.

I make no secrets about not being a fan of the mechanics aspects of mathematics. I love statistics and decision maths while I’m beginning to like pure maths more. I do think that non-mathematicians don’t really understand how different the various areas of maths are and I was wondering how similar/different this is to the sciences. I don’t think many people would expect someone with a biology degree to be very comfortable teaching A level physics or chemistry and I think there is a parallel within the maths areas. While I do think that some of the skills are transferable (as I suspect they are in the sciences), simply being good at teaching mechanics would not automatically make you good at teaching statistics. They definitely are not ‘just all maths’. With the changes to A level maths, I may well have to try and pick up some aspects of mechanics but I maintain it would be better to have people who are specialists in the areas they’re teaching.

I’ve emailed to ask about the raffle tickets. I’ll write a blog post about it when/if they reply.

The mathsjam annual conference is coming soon (12th and 13th November) and I am now booked to go. Hurrah.

Here is a link to a post where I give a little more detail about the maths books I bought.

I think that’ll do for now. Perhaps you should go and listen to it.


5 Top Tips for Success at A level Maths and Wider Reading

My school has a Specialist Tutor Program in the sixth form which is a weekly timetabled slot to broaden students’ experiences. It’s a fantastic idea and, as a sixth form tutor, I run one of the sessions each week. The one I ran last week was titled 5 Top Tips for Success at A level Maths and was, partly, based on a survey I carried out via twitter recently. (Just to give you a flavour of the broadness, my one this week was about passing your driving theory test.)

I’ve collated and refined the results from the survey along with the experiences of my faculty into a structured powerpoint presentation. It was used in an hour session with mostly year 12 students. I consciously included some interactive bits and tasks to do and a couple of different presentation style so it’s not all just listening to me talk. Here’s a link to the ppt and you’re welcome to use/adapt it as you wish. Thanks to all the people that answered the survey and I know a lot of you will be interested in seeing the results.


If you take a look, you’ll notice that the last part is a wider reading list, aimed at anyone that wants to broaden their maths understanding or general interest, perhaps with a view to mentioning it in UCAS personal statements. It is obviously non-exhaustive but here’s the list for ease of reference:



On the internet

As I was buying a book for my son (Number Quest – more on this another time) I stumbled across an eBay shop that had lots of maths books for sale pretty cheaply. Now, they also had an offer on of “buy 40 books, get 50% off”, and, like a TV with a broken volume control, you can’t turn that down can you?

I picked out some for myself:


Some that I’m going to take in for students to borrow:

And there was only a minor mishap as I tried to buy a couple of copies of Alex Bellos’s book, ‘Alex through the looking glass’:


I don’t suppose anyone wants a snooker book do they?

Open Evening – The Psychic Maths Department

We had our open evening last Wednesday. It was very well attended and I wanted to share with you what we did.


I saw this sign on Resourceaholic who saw it on Blackpool Sixth Maths department’s twitter feed. Couldn’t resist borrowing the sentiment.

We are a big department so had two rooms to allow more space. In one room, we had:

  • Examples of year 7 students’ books from last year
  • Chess boards set up with current students to play against
  • Another student available to help students draw a hexagon using a protractor. The students then put their name and school on the hexagon and tessellated them on a wall (wish I’d taken a picture now)

In the other room, we had

  • Guess the lowest, unique, positive integer competition (Thanks to Resourceaholic again) which I’ll make a separate post about soon
  • A coordinate challenge (with students helping). This was designed by a current year 10 student (when she was in year 9) and makes a copy of the school logo


  • A ‘magic’ trick that I called “The psychic maths department”

I had three trays:


The visitors were invited to “Choose a tray, any tray”. Each one had 3 screwed up balls of three colours. Next, the visitor picks out a ball and reads out the number on it. They had to choose where to put the column of the colour that matched that ball, and then, in that column, where to put that number. This is repeated 8 times and the fact that there are so many choices is highlighted.psychic-maths

Eventually, you get to something like this:


Next, you give them the novelty, oversized calculator and get them to add up the three, 3-digit numbers. Onto our predictions:


(Next year I may work out how to make those shapes match the logo).

Then, reveal the predictions one at a time:


If you come to our school, I’ll help you work out how that was done.

There are a few subtle things that I think this activity does:

  • Shows that maths can be exciting and intriguing
  • Demonstrates that we know how to use interactive whiteboards as more than just projector screens
  • We use calculators when appropriate

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts and I hope that’s inspired you for your own Open Evenings!

New school year

As we approach the end of September, it’s getting on for 2 months since I wrote a post. I’m happy with not writing over Summer, but I’m beginning to feel bad that I’m neglecting my blogging. So, back to it! This post is just a quick set up for the coming year.

I’m teaching at the same school I have done for the last 7 years or so. I am ‘Principal Teacher of Maths’ although I’d have called it something like ‘Maths teacher in charge of the KS3 maths’. We recently got a new head teacher (Chris HildrewI blogged about that here) but otherwise, things are pretty similar.

Having said that, the two main changes for me this year are:

  1. I’m leading a whole school CPD (or CPL if you prefer) on homework. It’s still in its infancy but after one session, the group of staff are motivated to look into ways to develop independence in students’ approaches to homework. Our (clearly too ambitious) early thoughts included “ideally, we’d get to the stage where students didn’t need to be set homework as they’d independently work out how much they need to do and on what areas”. I’m sure we’ll reign that in a bit in our next meeting.
  2. I am teaching year 13s part of the Core 3 course. I taught some C1 last year and that went well. I didn’t teach any C2 though and that is making relearning the C3 stuff a little harder. I’m enjoying the challenge and I’m sure that the questions I’m asking the other maths teachers is forcing them to think carefully about their own understanding too. Next year is when the new A level course starts and at my school, I think that’s likely to mean all teachers have to teach core and applied maths but, as is always the way, we don’t know enough about it to be sure yet. Either way, brushing up on my reciprocal trigonometric functions and transformations of functions probably isn’t a bad thing!

That’s it for now. You can expect to see more frequent blog posts from me now. Feel free to encourage people to subscribe!

TES reviews – 5 star resources

Every so often, as part of the TES maths panel, I’m given a set of resources to review. The aim is to highlight the best resources to make them easier to find. Here are the ones I gave 5 stars to from my latest batch.


By William Emeny (@maths_master)

LINK here

The pdf files here are pretty straight forward and the matching activity is nice. The thing that makes this resource shine is the link to the interactive resources that show the circles theorems in action. You can drag key points and see how that affects the overall shapes involved. Great on an IWB!
GCSE Revision Topic Progression Grids

By alisongilroy

LINK here

This is a collection of sheets that allows students to a variety of different ‘levels’ of question on the same topic. A great opportunity to push students on to try the next level of difficulty once they’ve shown they can master the previous ones. I’m definitely going to be using these in lessons and also during revision time.
GCSE Shape and Measure Revision (D-A*)

By mathspo

LINK here

This was an easy 5 stars as I saw how good it was in action! I used this resource with my (top set) year 11 class during the revision weeks. It went brilliantly, keeping the class focussed for the full lesson while covering a load of topics that they may have been tempted to overlook in their revision. I certainly intend to use this again.

#TMCotham2 My take aways

Last week, my wife and I went to Cotham’s 2nd TeachMeet with the theme ‘power to pedagogy’. This evening was put together by Kelly McDonagh (@MissKMcD) and supported by Ali Goddard-Jones (@AliGoddardJones). If you’re a teacher and you’ve not been to a teachmeet before, I recommend you find one and try it out!

There were a lot of presenters (you can check out the list here) with a wide variety of themes (all presentations are available here) but I’ve picked out the ideas I’m taking away to try out. (Note: My pen was playing up so I’ve not necessarily carefully recorded who said what but I’m sure people will help me figure it out!)

Amjad Ali @ASTsupportAAli

Referred to “Comfort, Struggle and Panic” zones. You need to be in the struggle zone to learn best. This is something I’d seen before but I liked the way he related it to learning to swim. The children’s pool, where there is no danger/challenge at all, is a place where you can do a lot of lengths but won’t actually learn anything.

4 tools from Amjad that I intend to use:

  1. At the end of a lesson, get students to draw a 3 by 3 grid and fill it with the nine words they heard most frequently in that lesson
  2. Make use of to read things more quickly
  3. Going through the front page of a GCSE exam paper with the students and in (painful) detail go through each bit
  4. Red dot and Green dot highlighting. As you’re walking round a class, when you notice something that stands out as incorrect in a book, put a red highlighter dot. This is a sign for the student to check what’s written there and correct it. The green highlighter is for when you’ve looked at a page in class and know it’s good. Put a green line down the side of the page so that when you’re marking, you know you’ve already checked that work.

Chris Baker @TheEduBaker

Talking about ‘coaching cards’ for when observing PGCSE students. These are simple pictures that can give hints to the teacher AS THEY’RE TEACHING rather than waiting until after and it being too late. Link here.

Ali Goddard-Jones @AliGoddardJones

Reminded us that we should always “Begin with the End in Mind”. I think this is very easy to forget! She also mentioned a TED talk by Derek Sivers on How to Start a Movement which I intend to watch soon.

Danny Dignan @DrDanNicholls

Say to your students, “Who did something great today? There are 30 of you and only 1 of me. If you saw someone else doing something good, tell me about it.”

The importance of ‘thank you’ and assertively asking for it.

Danny doesn’t like using sweets as rewards (which I agree with) partly because I don’t think they help students struggle with problems for long periods of time.

Chris Baker @TheEduBaker (part 2)

Talked about the effect of dopamine and the need for regular, small opportunities to feel successful. He mentioned people who make checklists are ‘dopamine-addicts’ and freely admits that he falls firmly into that camp. Chris also pointed out that there is a tension with the desire to create patient problem solvers but I’m sure there’s some element of middle ground to be found. I especially liked the idea of using a post-it note to praise a piece of student’s work in the classroom as you’re walking around. I have done this occasionally in the past but this has reminded me to make use of it again.

Dave Gale @reflectivemaths

I talked about tutor time activities. It was great. They are here.

One of the things I really enjoy about TeachMeets it the opportunity to meet other teachers and see them sharing ideas while having a chance to share mine too. I’m looking forward to the next one! Thanks again Kelly.