Sunday, 31 March 2013

Maths Rock Stars

Over at there's a wonderful idea called Times Tables Rock Stars.

His blog says 'In my year 7 classes at the start of every year, it’s a sad truth that not all of them know their times tables off by heart. By not having this basic building block, problem-solving later on in maths is always going to be light on solving and big on problems.' This is very true for me too... too many pupils who have those problem solving skills but find their arithmetic skills to be a major stumbling block. I intend to do the Times Tables Rock Stars with my year 7 classes next year and even my year 8s this year...

At the moment, I am also playing with another idea. After some short negotiation with the head of year 7, our numeracy and literacy leaders will be in forms on alternate Thursday mornings for 15 minutes to do some numeracy and literacy work. Our forms are, like every other school, mixed ability. The times table thing probably won't work over the next twelve weeks (six sessions, or so...) due to the gulf between pupils in the forms, so I am adapting the idea. We'll look at some maths and award points for answering questions correctly.

'Times Tables Rock Stars' awards a status for improving the speed of your mental arithmetic from 'one question per x seconds' to 'one question per y seconds'. I'm going to call my project 'Maths Rock Stars' and pupils will make their way on a journey from the bottom to the top.

The basic plan is:
Week One - pupils are awarded the status of 'Rock Fan'. They'll answer questions based around playing a show at a local pub - there's one across the road that they'll all have seen which is a bit of a dive. Each week there'll be 20 points available on their sheet with questions such as 'Twelve people come to your show and pay £2 each. How much do you make?' or 'You play 4 songs 3m, 6m, 4m and 3m long. On average, how long is each song?'.
Week Two - pupils are working towards the status of 'Rock Roadie'. They'll answer questions based around playing a show at a different, more-suited to music pub across the city. There'll be twenty points available for questions such as 'There are 5 people in your band. You are paid £40 for the gig - how much do you get each?' and 'A drink costs £2. You have £11 in your wallet. How many drinks can you buy?'.
Week Three - some pupils should have achieved the status of 'Rock Roadie' and be making their way towards 'Rock Star'. The questions will be based around playing a gig at a local venue, supporting a bigger band. Questions might be 'Sound checks take 20 minutes per band. There are 3 bands on the bill and it takes 5 minutes to set up. You're first to sound check and doors open at 7:30pm. What time do you need to be at the venue?' or 'Seven people buy your demo for £1.50. Each CD costs you 30p to make - how much profit do you make?'
Week Four - some pupils will now be working towards the status of 'Rock Legend'. The questions will be based around playing a gig at a bigger local venue, headlining. Questions might be '120 people buy a T-shirt for £10. 170 people buy a CD for £5. How much have you taken in merch sales?' or 'The venue holds 400 people and is 60% full. How many people are at your show? If they pay £7 for a ticket and you get 30% of sales from the venue, how much do you get paid?'.
Week Five - some pupils will now have achieved the 'Rock Legend' status and be working towards achieving the status of 'Rock God'. This week they'll be playing a show at Leeds Festival, headlining one of the smaller stages. Questions such as 'The temperature at midday is 13 degrees celcius. By 5pm the weather is forecast to drop by 4 degrees. What will the temperature be at 5pm?' and 'Each tent needs 12 squares metres of space. A field measures 100m by 150m. How many tents can fit in the field?'
Week Six - by this time pupils will have achieved the 'Rock God' status. They'll now be headlining the city's new arena to 13,500 people in their hometown show. Questions might be 'Each person pays £25 for a ticket and the venue pay you 70% of ticket sales. How much do you make from ticket sales?' or 'You pay 5% of merch sales to the venue. If you sell 1,200 T-shirts at £17 each and 900 CDs at £10 each, how much do you pay the venue?'

Every week will have the same plan: Introduction, task, answers. The numeracy leaders will introduce the project in week 1 in the introduction part and each following week will take the opportunity to award the pupils who have achieved a new status with their rewards. They will introduce the venue for the week and hand out the worksheets.
During the task pupils will work on their questions with the aid of the numeracy leaders and form tutor to the sound of a 'rock' song - the kids seem to be going crazy for 'Pompeii' by Bastille at the moment, You Me At Six's 'The Swarm' is on a Thorpe Park advert and as pupils progress through their venues the tracks will go from more folky, 'pub-gig' type songs to more classic rock, 'massive venue' type songs. I was thinking Frank Turner > The Kooks > Bastille > You Me At Six > Fall Out Boy > U2, or something. I'm open to suggestions.
After each song finishes, pupils will wrap up and exchange their worksheets to peer mark. A 'weaker' pupil will read the answers out and pupils will mark, handing the sheets to the numeracy leaders for collating the following week.

Each 'status' will be accompanied by a physical 'reward':
'Rock Fan' achieves nothing - this is the basic level to build from.
'Rock Roadie' achieves a laminated 'AAA' pass. 'Aaron Aaronsen has achieved the level of ROCK ROADIE' with an AAA badge and date / venue name printed beneath. Each will have a hole punched in the top left corner with a treasury tag attached so this can be attached to a zipper on their bag.
'Rock Star' achieves a commemorative black 7" record with a sticker stuck over the original label. 'Aaron Aaronsen has achieved the level of ROCK STAR'.
'Rock Legend' achieves a commemorative silver 7" record with a sticker stuck over the original label. 'Aaron Aaronsen has achieved the level of ROCK LEGEND'.
'Rock God' achieves a commemorative gold 7" record with a sticker stuck over the original label. 'Aaron Aaronsen has achieved the level of ROCK GOD' on the label and they will be assigned their own rock star name.

I'm thinking that out of the 6 weeks there will be 120 points up for grabs.
20 points - Rock Roadie
50 points - Rock Star
80 points - Rock Legend
110 points - Rock God

Of course this is all still in the planning stages. Please, please, please put any ideas you might have in the comments section, however useful you think they might be. Once I've developed the entire thing, I'll pop all the resources onto Dropbox and post a link in a new post.


  1. I like the idea. I'm coming round to the thought that getting times tables sorted out early can only help in the long run.

    What I don't see is how this system helps those who come in not knowing them actually improve. I worry that those that come in 'good at maths' will continue to be fine while those that struggled with times tables (for whatever reason) will get stuck at Rock Star level...

    What have you got planned to improve the skills that they come in with?

    1. Dave,
      This is also my concern, but one I haven't got an answer for as of yet.
      In the room there will be two year 10 pupils who are mathematically strong and their form tutor. I can't say that I expect their form tutor to be much use, unfortunately, leaving the two year 10s to get bogged down by questions.

      I need something and this appears to be the best 'rewards-driven' short project I can come up with, but you're right in asking 'Where's the support for the bottom end?'. Unfortunately, I'm not sure, but this is better than no numeracy at all during form time.