Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Maths Rock Stars Revisited

I have revisited this task here from 21 months ago this morning. I needed a task for the Year 8s to do in their numeracy sessions on Thursday mornings with our Young Leaders and have altered the 'sheets' from last time to be 1024 * 768 pixel-sized wallpapers. This will reduce photocopying costs, and I have added a 'Band Practice' section for students who struggle with their literacy to go for first.

The resources are here:

Each one is to be completed to a 'timer' that will be a popular rock song. I am yet to decide on which, otherwise I'd share!
If each section is assigned one point (1 point for doing 'Band Practice', 1 for question 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), there are 34 points available.

Each student begins as a 'Rock Fan'. For this they achieve nothing, but it means that every student has a starting point.

After scoring 5 points, they'll be awarded the status of 'Rock Roadie'. After the 5 weeks, they'll be awarded a laminated AAA pass (much like a staff badge might be done) if they do not progress beyond this point:

After scoring 20 points, they'll be awarded the status of 'Rock Star', and will receive a commemorative black 7" record with their name on it!

After scoring 25 points, they'll be awarded the status of 'Rock Legend', and will receive a commemorative silver 7" record with their name on it:

After scoring 29 points, they'll be awarded the status of 'Rock God', and will receive a commemorative gold 7" record with their name on it...

The main concerns with this the last time I blogged this was a lack of basic practice. I hope I've gone some way to achieving this with the 'Band Practice' section. Please share any thoughts that you might have...

Monday, 29 December 2014

'It's all too much': A few thoughts about Christmas...

I'm a very, very lucky young man. I'm very quickly starting to get a handle on what that actually means, because I feel like I've taken it for granted.

I'm a grumpy young man. Grouchy? Grumpy? I don't know. I'm somewhere between Russell Howard and Jack Dee (or so I'm told), and I'm not really a huge fan of Christmas. I explained to my Y9s that if Christmas was one week long, I'd love it, but it's not! It's two months long! The build up tires me out and I struggle to get excited about 'The Big Day'.

I'm very lucky. Three years ago, a wonderful, pretty young lady agreed to move in with me. 18 months ago, we got a dog (Rupert and he's mental, but I love having something greet me at the door with all the excitement in the world after a long day at work). 5 months ago the aforementioned young lady agreed to marry me and we're in the midst or organising an incredible wedding in Northern Finland (a week's stay here, with a wedding here and two nights here) with 12 of our closest relatives.

We're very lucky. We got to spend Christmas Day with our loving families, taking the dog over to my parents where we were given presents to unwrap after unwrapping presents at our own home, were fed a wonderful home-cooked Christmas dinner and then left to spend the remainder of the evening in our cozy and warm home, watching whatever we wanted to on our big TV. We were lavished with presents and gifts of money by our families, the same ones that are helping out with our wedding in a large way, and we looked at one another and said 'It's too much'.

We're on the same page. 'It's too much', We don't need anything. We want things (We're not dead!). But we don't need anything. I broke my phone on Saturday and without thinking twice bought myself a brand new 64GB OnePlus One. I don't need it, though. But I want it.

'Black Friday'. My fiancĂ©e works in retail and the stories that she has, and those from the news, are awful. Do they need a £100 TV so much that they're willing to cause physical harm to someone?
'Boxing Day Sales'. After weeks and months of buying presents, and a day of unwrapping things that people don't need, they decide that buying more things is what's important to them. It's all too much.

In the last week of term, I was involved in two things. The first being our school's OAP party, where we welcome the local aged population to have a bit of a knees-up and send them away with a care package of non-perishables and a Christmas present. Our Year 10s were nothing but outstanding with them, tending to their every need and staying with them whilst they waited for taxis to take them home. I also organised a house-based staff Christmas quiz, for Y7 and Y8 to 'watch' and support. It was lovely to see so many in the room, after a bloody hard first term, enjoying themselves and letting their hair down. After this, everyone went to the staff room for a leaving speech and a drink and I packed up after the quiz, getting a bit thoughtful.

The long (sorry about the previous) and the short (upcoming) of this is that I think my lack of enjoyment of Christmas is all my own doing, and I'm determined to make this different next year.

* Purchase 4 - 6 'Christmas' mugs from somewhere (ideally reduced in price...) and invite friends over for hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows in the build up to Christmas next year.
* Set up a whole-school 'Secret Santa' on for next year.
* Decorate my classroom, overnight, with a full-sized Christmas tree, fully lit and trimmed for my form's last year in school and to celebrate the end of their December mocks.
* Take a small Christmas treat to each dog at Dog's Trust (It's not their fault that they're alone at Christmas!) and potentially do the same for homeless people with dogs.
* Christmas Cards! And not just to my form next year. I'll send them to all of my family, colleagues and (potentially) neighbours! (Grown up, or what?!)

I asked my parents to cut back with us a little next year. I'm not sure they'll listen, but giving more may put my mind at ease over it! :)

Saturday, 18 October 2014

My Favourite Recap Activities

I like a good recap activity and my classes always seem to do well in their assessments. I think it's because of the way that I prepare them during the week or so prior to their end of unit assessment, or in the case of GCSE classes, during the month or so leading up to a mock or the real thing.

'Revision' seems to be a dirty word at our place. 'Boosters' and 'Catch up' are always used, but why are we not 'boosting' and extending during lessons, and why are we needing to 'catch up'? How have they been allowed to fall behind so much that they need a 'catch up' session?

I do revision. It's an opportunity for kids to revisit what we've done in lesson. They'll be told that they're expected to have learnt it, and I won't reteach something after school. I'll give them hints, but that typically sees kids recalling what we'd done in lessons and them carry on individually.

Unfortunately, when left to their own devices, a large proportion of our cohort lack the necessary skills to revise properly, even after sitting through 'Learning to Learn' workshops and 'This is how to revise' (not their actual name) sessions.
I think it's right to make allowances for this, especially at Key Stage 3, and make sure that I've allocated 'learning time' to recap what we've been doing before they are assessed.

I have two 'go-to' activities that the kids seem to enjoy a great deal.

1. The Locked Box
I've blogged this before, but Chris Smith (@aap01302)'s newsletter brought a wonderful activity to my attention. Take some goodies, lock them in a box, and set some questions - around 8 seems to be enough for an hour. Label each question A - H, and set a 9th question based upon the answers from the previous 8. The 9th question gives a code (3-digit for me, as I have 3-digit combination locks) and the kids race to get their first.
Sometimes, nobody will get there. That's when I get the goodies.

A typical lesson would start with a short trailer (a different one for each of the different activities - I currently have two), and giving them a short 'storyline', before setting them to work on the activity. About 15-20 minutes before the end of the lesson, I stop them (even if nobody has the code) and go through the solutions, suggesting that anyone that doesn't understand where they've gone wrong speaks to me about their issues.

My two activities are called 'For British Eyes Only' (a reference to a show called Arrested Development, which is very difficult to explain as a concept to 14 year olds) and 'Race to Treasure Island'. My trailers for each are 'Johnny English' and 'An Adventure with Pirates'.

'For British Eyes Only' looks like this, and the goodies are locked in a silver canister:

These are printed A5, two-sided. The example above was set for my 9 set 2 within the past fortnight.

'Race to Treasure Island' looks like this, and the goodies are locked in a small treasure chest with gold-painted pennies in the bottom for authenticity:

The map is printed A5 and the A - H table is shown on the board. The example above was given to my 7 set 1 at the beginning of last year. I haven't done Race to Treasure Island this year yet. but when I do, I get an inflatable parrot and cutlass out and walk around shouting 'YARGH! How ye doin' there matey?'. My colleagues have concerns about me.

2. Circus Time

Circus time is great for the kids, but your classroom becomes very loud and you have to trust them.

I bought 8 of these photoframes from IKEA:

I have made a Word document where each page is a table made of two cells, the size of standard photographs, where I type in one side 'Carousel Activity 1', the title of that activity and the questions for that title and copy this into the other side when done. I print these 7 activities, cut out and put in the frames.

I rearrange my tables in to 7 groups of 4 seats, give each child a piece of paper and have two timers on the board: one at 4:30 for the task and one at 00:30 for moving. This means the activity takes 35 minutes and gives the opportunity to recap the answers and address any misconceptions prior to the end of the lesson.

Here are the activities I gave my 7 set 3 during period 5 yesterday:

I'm also currently playing with...
3. Pub Quiz

Put your pupils into teams of their choosing and have them compete against each other. There doesn't even need to be a prize. I did this with 10 set 1 regarding their understanding of calculations with decimals. I put in a few silly rounds, like missing letters in band names and which jokes was the best at the Edinburgh Fringe, but it let me know where the kids were and allowed me to plan appropriately for the next lesson (a bit of work on multiplying and dividing decimals and we were away!).
I'm going to create a pub quiz for my classes this week prior to their half-termly assessment.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Complete Maths (and a Maths Teach Meet)

After a long day, in a long week, after 5 hard weeks since September 1 and on the Thursday before a Saturday open day (eurgh) I packed up my things and headed East to Brigshaw High School and Language College for a Maths Teach Meet.It was well attended for a venue out of the way for teachers teaching in Leeds, I thought, and I took a seat by myself (as ever...).

Thank you to @MellowsMaths for organising and hosting the event, giving me a chance to steal people's ideas.

As a warning, the things I post after this sentence may be things that you don't agree with, but those are my thoughts and feelings and I am happy to be talked around.

1. Numicon
I've seen Numicon used in classrooms. We have Numicon at our place and I'm almost certain it has its uses. I have some very weak children in one of my year 7 classes this year and it might have a great effect on their progress. My concern is that I'd rather those children not come to associate numbers with shapes or colours and would prefer them to develop a strong understanding of numbers, rather than to recognise their shapes and relate it this way.
Why would counters not do the job just as well, or better?

2. Key Facts Throwing
Looks fun. Potentially great with my current year 8 class. Potentially chaos with my current year 11s.
The idea is:
Give pupils an A7 piece of paper and display 4 key facts on the whiteboard. Each pupil writes down one, screws their paper up and throws it towards another student. Two of the key facts are removed and each pupil adds another of the facts to the piece of paper they had thrown at them (or picked up, due to bad aim) and repeats the throwing exercise. Each student then adds to final two facts (no help, no scaffolding) to their piece of paper and sticks it in their book.
As a relatively neat student, I'd like my paper to be flat and my key facts to be written in neat handwriting. As a messy student, who enjoys throwing things, I'm sure this is a great, fun plenary. For me, I don't think I'd like to let the kids throw things at each other in my classroom.
That said, I'm happy to get a clean bin/storage box and have students write a question that they think all in the class should be able to answer and throw that in the bin/storage box, using the resultant collection of questions as a starter in the next lesson (Come in, get a question, get started...).

3. Foldables
I have seen. I did it with Year 11 for circle theorems last year. They did it, wrote their theorems, wrote their examples, put it in their folder and... oh, wait, it never came back out.
Foldables, I'm sure, have their place. I'm thinking of doing this again this year and prompting the kids more to get them out during periods of revision. I'm currently searching for the PDF and can't find it. Tweet sent to get it.

4. A+ Click looks like a very good web site to use for starters and plenaries. The site is American, so Grade 6 is year 7, and very much worth a look. In fact, it reminded me that I really need to look at when I have the time.
It was designed for kids to use and might be great as a revision tool for end of year assessments.

5. Nix The Tricks
Ever get that 'Aaaaargh!' moment, where you're working with 5 - 3 + 5 and you give the answer as 7 (obviously) and that kid shouts 'You're wrong, sir! It's -3, because addition comes before subtraction. BIDMAS, innit!'
Cut out the tricks and teach real understanding. Download the free eBook here. Thanks @srcav.
I've already e-mailed this to my department and hope they get on to it. I am sick to the back teeth of re-teaching year 11 about multiplying fractions, negative numbers and the order of operations!

6. Mastery
Spend more time on fewer topics. Get the basics right before attempting area with kids who can't multiply, or perimeter with kids who can't add. Teach topics separately - the confusion with area and perimeter comes with them being taught too closely, I think. They know both, but not which one's which.
I very much enjoy the idea of 'minimally different' or 'not minimally different' to develop understanding of the workings of what you're doing, so that things can be seen to be working with similar numbers and how they change.

7. Complete Maths (I know I've missed some, and I know this is out of the order Stephen spoke, but I wanted to add this at the end).
La Salle Education have a product called 'Complete Mathematics' that they are currently selling. It costs £2,995 for a year for a secondary school and the idea sounds great. Put in the objectives for your classes and find quality resources, assessments, homeworks and more at the click of a button. I signed up for a trial account and have spent a few hours playing with it today since returning from our open day.

I may not be getting the best use out of it, but I'm not totally convinced thus far.
I set up the school timetable and added my classes. Only one kid at the moment, for testing purposes. I've tried to add a scheme of work for my year 11 class, but the choices are very vague and don't entirely fit in with what I need to do with my year 11s this year. That said, I also tried to do it for my year 7s and don't want to teach the objectives in the order that the system is trying to make me.

My year 11s are struggling. They're working at D/E and we want Cs from them, so will sit a higher exam at the end of this year to try and get that. They certainly aren't following a scheme of work and I'm firefighting from one week to the next, dependent on their needs. What I'd really like to do is, from the timetable page, search for (as an example) 'ratio' and select an objective and a level/grade to select as my objective for that lesson - I'd then like to see the resources available to me for that objective and level and select from those. I'd like to do this for each of my lessons and then create a bespoke assessment based on the objectives that we've covered every few weeks.
I think the idea is great and I think the way it has been sold and explained to me is exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, at the moment, I'm not sure it delivers what I feel the product promises and I'm a little let down. If anyone has any advice for me, I'd love to hear it!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Able, Gifted & Talented

It seems that every school lately is offering their staff the opportunity to 'intern' on their leadership team under the guise of an 'Associate Leader' post. I believe we currently have four Associate Leaders in place and my understanding of the application process is that each of these post-holders has submitted a proposal about what they'd like to lead on during their post. To my knowledge, our post-holders are currently leading on Teaching & Learning, Intervention, Student Leadership and Able, Gifted and Talented (which shall be referred to as AGT for the remainder of this post). I'm looking to focus on the AGT strand.

I am currently going in to my 7th year of teaching. I spent my first in a school that was closing, second in a school that had just opened and the previous four in a more established school. In terms of an AGT provision, I can't say I've seen a lot. I recall attending a maths event in my first year delivered by Rob Eastaway, for which we took the children identified as our 'most able' to another local secondary school and watched a lecture on the maths of games. In my second year I don't recall anyone mentioning AGT and this has been the case throughout most of my time in my current post. Myself and another member of the department took some Year 11s to a Maths Inspiration show, but was told in the next year that because it wouldn't have a direct effect in the class room that this wasn't going to be allowed again.

Late last year the Associate Leader for AGT asked us to identify our AGT pupils within mathematics and suggested that we 'highlight the pupils we expect to get an A in our subject'.

I looked at our AGT register recently, and I am shocked at the way that it has gone. My main shock was the dwindling numbers of pupils identified as we progressed through the school. I taught an excellent Year 7 top set this year and in my eyes at least half of them (class of 30, but two set ones in Y7) should be getting an A at GCSE. Only about 12 were identified in Year 8 top set and this number diminished as students got older. I believe that last year our 'A/A* haul' was 13 children. I am hoping that this is increased this year with a decent number from my set 2.

My hope is that if we focus on our top end more at KS3, they'll remain more engaged and develop the thinking skills to succeed at GCSE. Of course, in an ideal world, we'd do this with everyone, but time is a finite resource.

My intention is to run an 'AGT club' at a lunchtime:

Students will take part in the UKMT Mentoring Programme, working with a teacher in week 1, given the opportunity to 'drop in' in week 2 and to submit their solutions in week 3, starting the next set of problems in week 4 and repeating the cycle.
From this, we'll be able to identify a strong team for the UKMT Team Challenge event and entry to the Junior and Intermediate Individual Competitions.

As an aside from this, we'll be offering students the chance to experience a live escape game as a trip (which may take place in week 2 or 3) as these things are popping up all over the country it seems!
This will also be extended to our classes as a rewards trip after we've gone through our AGT cohort.

I'll also be looking into the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition and trying to find some information on the National Cipher Challenge, whilst also looking to get involved with the Science and Technology departments to work through some of the STEM Challenges here.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Plenary Alarms

I'm not sure if your place of work is like mine. All too often kids are late to class and have a ready-made excuse... "Miss let us go late...", "Sir was speaking to me after History...", "Our teacher let us go late!". Truth be told, a lot of time, they're probably telling the truth. That, and it always seems to be the same lesson, week-in, week-out. I'm too nice to suggest to anyone that they need to do something better. That's not my role.

I was a little like that. Not every lesson, but every so often. I'd run out of time for what I wanted to do, or something would kick off and I'd lose track of where I was and have to quickly pack the kids up. Unfortunately, this meant that the books weren't collected, the room was left in a mess and I didn't get a chance to get through a plenary.

Here's my warning: I have been bullied for this. If you do this, you may be bullied for this. But do remember that you'll never forget to deliver a plenary again, and the kids will always leave your lesson on time to get to their next lesson.

Introducing... the plenary alarm.

Our lessons run in the following way: 08:45 - 09:00 (Registration), 09:00 - 10:00 (Period 1), 10:00 - 11:00 (Period 2), 11:20 - 12:20 (Period 3), 12:20 - 13:20 (Period 4), 14:00 - 15:00 (Period 5).

If you'll see the screenshot below (a number of them, joined together), I have alarms set for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for 08:55 (to wrap up my registration time, but not on a Tuesday as that's assembly!), 09:50, 10:50, 12:10, 13:10 and 14:50 (10 minutes before the end of each lesson).

This allows me to start wrapping up my lesson, getting the kids to finish up their work, go through some answers, set a final problem, play a game and so on. I can deal with any behaviour issues and I can remind the kids about homework. It's a very simple idea, and I hope that my sharing will help someone. The kids know what time it is and are prepared for their last problem and a challenge.

Just remember that when you're working with colleagues during free periods and your alarm goes off, you should be prepared for wise-cracking ones to come out with 'So.. what have you learnt in the last hour?' or 'Let's recap our work during this period...'.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Academic Smackdown - A house event...

I sit here just over three weeks away from the end of an incredibly tough year. They're all tough, but this year has been extra busy. I achieved a promotion at the back end of last year, meaning that my responsibilities were increased, and on top of that out curriculum leader has been off for the last 12 weeks for medical reasons, meaning that I've had to step up to the assistant curriculum leader role whilst completing my own duties and teaching 20 lessons per week. I've been tired since October, and actually overslept by an hour this morning.

In a house meeting a number of months ago (probably prior to Christmas) the question was asked about potential house competitions and I suggested an academic competition - my heart bleeds for the quiet girl who gets zero attention for achieving a grade B at the end of year 9 whereas the boy who wins the 100m sprint at sports day and the misbehaving girl who has made improvements get all of it. This was my suggestion to allow those quiet (at times, silent at all others) intelligent kids to get some recognition and a loud round of applause. An 'Academic Smackdown', or 'Academic Heptathlon', but didn't want to limit the number of rounds.

I shelved the idea at the first. The response was too negative - "But it's too much work", "Someone will need to sort all of the questions out" - but I suggested the event to one of our house leaders who was incredibly supportive and we put the idea forward to the head. We looked at when to hold it, and decided that Year 11 out of the way and some time to breathe would be best and organised it for a day where disruption and the requirement for cover would be minimised. Wednesday, it seemed.

I left it for a while (first mistake) and got around to it after Easter. I sent an e-mail to curriculum leaders asking for subjects who would be interested in submitting a round for inclusion in the (now-dubbed) Academic Smackdown. Humanities (at years 7 and 8), ICT, Maths, Modern Foreign Languages, PE, RE and Science were the subjects to get back to me with a positive response and other teachers went to work on the questions. I wanted to give subjects ownership of their own round (second mistake).

The questions dripped in. Some as late as the week before the event. But they came in. It took a lot of work to put them in to a format I was happy with. I'm still not happy with it, but I now know it works and can work on something more long-term.

Whilst waiting for all of the questions to come in, I created an advert for the event, sharing it with form staff and asking them to show it to their forms, returning any interested students to me via e-mail (third mistake). The response was poor. I haven't given it a proper investigation, or asked questions about it, but the response from some forms was poor in terms of students (maybe their form teacher hadn't sold it so well) or non-existent (even a 'None from me. Sorry Mr. Taylor). I had to identify students from their KS2 data (English and Maths at level 5) and ask them. Many didn't show when I asked them to, so they missed out, but we just about managed to get 4 teams of 4 from years 7, 8 and 9. Unfortunately, year 10 became a write-off due to a lack of interest.

With teams sorted and questions compiled, the only issue was 'I've never run anything like this before. Will the number of questions be enough? Are they challenging, but not too challenging? What if...'. I compiled an 'In The News' round from a weekly news quiz on TES last night and went in feeling like this will go well.

We hired a set of buzzers from, set up the hall with 2 hexagonal tables either side of a smaller table (the 4 large ones for the teams and the middle one for our presenter), split the seating up in to 'house sections' and put a microphone on all tables. I bought an inflatable trophy as a half-way house to something more professional-looking (silver plates, one for each year group, as it is).

I'd asked for the help of some of our Young Leaders to aid me on the day. 8 of our year 10s scored the event for us, acted as resource managers for each team and helped me to sort out the second event when it became apparent that a few changes were needed. They were outstanding and continue to be a credit to themselves and the school. I asked two year 8 children (who run the tech side of their own assemblies) to run the tech side of every event, and they were brilliant. Lastly, but by no means least, when the idea was first discussed as having potential, I thought of one child to present it. A year 10 girl, who is not at all our most perfect student, but has everything I wanted - a ruthless streak, the want to do better, a bit of banter and dedication to a cause. She was fantastic, and even muddled her way through pronouncing French and Spanish phrases with a bit of help.

I didn't get a promotion that I went for last year (assistant curriculum leader) due to having no experience in leading people. The last three months have changed that, with this event and stepping up within the department. That said, I didn't do this for experience or a promotion. I did this because I feel for those quiet kids who have so much to give to their school and get little opportunity to showcase their talents.

If you are looking to run a house event at your school, this is the one for you. If you've read this and have any questions, tweet me an e-mail address to @taylorda01 and we'll get a dialogue going. I'd suggest that you customise your event to your school, but I may share some resources if prodded.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

CPD, Twilights and Improving Standards...

I've spent a lot of time in 'twilight' sessions over the last few weeks which raise some very important issues about our school. I'm not hiding from the fact that our data makes the school look worse than it is to work in, but it seems that each of these sessions is aimed at teachers, and what we can do better to improve our results.

More long term, I've read a lot about improving standards across the country, and how the 'Shanghai Maths' model of working is the answer to our issues.

I'm going to spell it out, just in case there are important people reading...

Our issues in the mathematics classroom are not educational, they are social issues.

On Monday and Friday we had our Year 11s sit their GCSE exams. The first paper will have scared them, the second will have been much easier for them to get through. I've sat with a few kids and gone through the paper and (in my opinion) nobody in my class should be achieving fewer than 34 and 75 marks respectively. I really hope that they've done incredibly well, but some of them will achieve lower than this.

Because they don't read questions before they start to answer.
Because they think they know better than their teachers.
Because everything else is more important than their GCSE mathematics grade.

I've taught year 7 children who can't add, year 10s who can't remember the names of shapes and Year 11s who sit through a revision session on surds without saying a word and the next day say 'Sir, can we do surds again?'. The reason for the year 7 child is generally 'They have poor recall skills', but they know all the words to every One Direction song. The year 10? "Poor recall", but he knows all 23 members of the England World Cup squad. The year 11? I think that's just our big issue - why would they ask questions when they can sit there and look like they're doing something?

I favourited a few tweets after the second exam, with the intention of putting them in here.
  • Of 270 to sit an exam at a 'very good school', the exams officers ran out of their 40 calculators that they lend out.
  • They also loaned out 60 rulers.
  • Another school put on revision on Thursday with only 20 kids out of 175 attending.
  • That same school had to give 50+ pens out in an exam!
It was mentioned in a conversation I had with a long term supply teacher at our place. The kids don't bring a pen, a pencil, a ruler, a calculator, but they have a large supply of biscuits and energy drinks, not to mention their smart phones.

Unfortunately, education isn't a priority for everyone. Until it is, standards will not improve. And there isn't a thing that I can do about it until we have a big social shift.

Saturday, 12 April 2014


A number of a days, weeks or months (I forget, as everything recently has turned in to one big mess) I came across the Corbett Maths '5-a-day' resource on the Corbett Maths web site. A fantastic idea, but something that I wanted in a more 'usable' format in mixed ability forms so that our students are getting a diet of 'little and often'.

I threw something together (linked to Brazil 2014) and tweeted them, but wasn't entirely happy. Since deleting them, I've thought long and hard about how I want them to work and come up with... '5-a-side' (a proper rip off of '5-a-day', sorry) but the questions are taken from (or heavily inspired by) the 1 or 2 mark questions from the first ten questions of AQA papers from 2009 and 2010. The 'First 5' section comes from the first 10 questions of the foundation papers and 'Last 5' from the first 10 questions of the higher paper.

Rather simply, display it on the board through registration and allow students to work through at their own pace. I intend to e-mail answers out to form tutors that can be easily displayed too.

Here are two others that I've currently got through:

Any feedback gratefully received...

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Storage Hunters and Maths

I've been considering a new resource since January and have just got round to making it properly. The resource was inspired by these tweets:

I have an observation coming up on Tuesday. I'd have done this anyway, but the observation just made me put something together. My 7 set 1 have just revisited some percentage work - calculating percentages of amounts and increase and decrease - and on Monday will look at one amount as a percentage of another. On Tuesday, we'll look at calculating percentage profit/loss-style questions and will go through the lesson like this:

Starter - This takes up the first ten minutes of every lesson of mine. It's an opportunity for kids to get to my class room from their lesson, settle down, get their book out of their folder and write the learning objective and attempt something that we did last lesson. This starter has three pictures of bottles, with a capacity and an amount left. The ultimate question is 'Which is the most full?'. The idea of this is to have kids consider that 'fullness' is very much dependent on the size of the bottle and not the amount left in the bottle.

Introduction - I'll introduce the idea in two ways. The first is 'flipping houses', and without skipping a beat will show an image of an upside house... 'No! Not like this...', but more like this... where I found a half/half image of a before/after flipped house. I'll make up some data on the spot, about costs and sale price and we'll look at profit made on each. Some of the kids will simply compare profit, but I'm banking on a few talking about 'risk' or 'outlay' for each profit, and we'll calculate percentage profit. I'll make sure that the greater profit is the lesser percentage profit. The next way is to use an image of Del Boy and compare them to market traders selling jeans and coats, comparing percentage profits in the same way.

Activity - I haven't even thought of the activity that I'll have them do yet, and don't expect it to be an exciting one. I intend to look at a text book tomorrow and find something appropriate. If not, I'll have a dig around online tomorrow night.

Plenary - This is the bit that I'd like to share, and have uploaded to the TES web site here. @steelemaths tweeted about Storage Hunters and finding percentage increase/decrease. I watched a number of episodes and made notes about what was in each bin, how much the bin sold for and how much the bin was apparently worth. I'm using two different problems in my plenary:

This is the 'before' picture. When you press the door of the bin, it rolls up and shows (in this instance) a motorcycle in a room (picture from Google). I'll ask how much people think T-Money bid on the bin, and just above him (you can make it out faintly) you can press and his winning bid appears. Press beneath 'Value' and you'll get how much it was worth...

This is the 'after' picture, showing a room of movie props, the winning bid by Team Brandori and the value of the bin.
Pupils are then to calculate profit, and percentage profit to indicate who 'did best' out of their investments.

The idea can be extended to different bins, obviously, but @steelemaths also suggested 'Best value', 'floor space', 'volume of unit', 'estimating' and more.

These are the notes I made on some episodes, to give some extra data:
Pool cues, golf clubs, skis, couch, mystery boxes. SOLD - $500. WORTH - $1000
Mystery Box - Casino Chips ($500)

Rubbish + covered antique grabber machine. SOLD - $450. WORTH - $3000.

Sunglasses. Watches. All knock offs. SOLD - $300. WORTH - $100.

Gun cases. (Empty) 9mm. 45. 9mm. 32. 9mm. 9mm. Rifle. Rifle. Tommy gun replica. SOLD - $900. WORTH - $5100.

Old motorbike. Run down. SOLD - $1700. WORTH - $2385.

Civil War memorabilia. Big wheels (cannon). Boxes. Fake swords. Colt revolver. Reenactment saddle. SOLD - $10,000. WORTH - $22,700.

Archery equipment. Axes. Hunting equipment. Hidden crossbow. SOLD - $1350. WORTH - $1725.

Covered hot dog stand . SOLD - $475. WORTH - $4000.

Covered Scrambler, non-starter. Silver in locker. SOLD - $2900. WORTH - $5000.

Surfboards. Skate stuff. SOLD - $1400. WORTH - $2600.

Covered golf cart. Armour. Swords. Throwing hatchets. SOLD - $1750. WORTH - $3880.

Stuffed cow. Stacked boxes. Movie props. SOLD - $550. WORTH - $1200.

Home brew kit. SOLD - $900. WORTH - $1000.

Wetbike. Engines. SOLD - $2000. WORTH - $3500.

Camera. Telescope. Security camera. Alarm system. SOLD - $2200. WORTH - $4200.

Covered tractor. Tools. SOLD - $4000. WORTH - $6550.

Quarter pipes. Skateboards. Luge boards. SOLD - $2400. WORTH - $4300.

WW2 Bin. Propeller and paraphanalia. Bomb. German mauser (sp?). SOLD - $5500. WORTH - $12000.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Chase... Competitive times tables activity!

Every day, 5pm, ITV1.

I watch The Chase on a daily basis whilst I eat with my partner. I don't think the format lends itself well to the classroom on the whole, but I think 'The Final Chase' does.

Pick a child, any child. I'll be picking mine using a random name generator.
The child is to pick four pupils to chase - they're likely to choose their friends, as I don't think they've got the tactics to pick the lower ability kids in the group.
The four pupils who they've chosen to chase are given a minute to answer as many multiplication problems as possible - when a question is asked, only the person who is asked to answer may answer (wrong person answers, whether correct or not, are not accepted).
The chaser then has their minute to answer as many multiplication problems as possible, aiming to beat the target set by the four pupils they chose to chase.
Pupil scores are noted in the league table and the winners are to be celebrated at the end of the year.

The league table is to be scored on number of multiplication problems answered, and any ties decided by the difference between their score and the score they chased.

Potential alterations:
Make the original chase the whole class, one question each. Chaser chases the score set by the rest of the class.
Extend to other topics - fractions of an amount, percentages, and others.

I've made a SMART Notebook file for use, downloadable from here.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

What I'm doing with Year 11...

I teach our Year 11 set 2. There are 22 kids in my class and 19 of them achieved a grade C at the end of Year 10 - the other three achieved theirs in November (three of only eight or nine kids we ended up entering due to Michael Gove and his reforms). I teach them four times a week and in December they sat a higher paper as a mock examination. Unfortunately, due to way we work it, they haven't been given these grades yet. Tomorrow is our mock examination results day, so period 5 all of Year 11 will be out of their timetabled lesson, receiving an envelope to inform them of their achievements in their mocks.

Of my 22 pupils, five have a target of a C, 16 have a target of a B and one has a target of an A. In their mocks, one achieved an A, 10 achieved a B and 11 a C. 14 of those were on target or better (one!).

After tomorrow's mock results day, during Tuesday's lesson, I get to have some wonderful conversations:
Of the three who got their C in November, one was one mark off a B, one was a solid B and one was three marks from an A. I can't wait to speak to all three about it.
One of the girls was 11 marks from a B, all of which could have been achieved if she'd been able to solve equations confidently.

I intend to give them their papers back, with a handwritten note and this print out:
The numbers in brackets are the clip numbers on for each of the topics, so pupils can go back and review their understanding of topics with which they struggled.

I'll go around, speak to all the kids about their marks and give them the answers to some of the questions that were answered poorly on a wider scale. Disappointingly, this includes questions 1a and 7 on paper two, 4b on paper one.

My aim with this class is to spend the next 14 school weeks (about 50 lessons) urging them to improve their score by 32 marks - a score that would give a one grade improvement to every child and potentially push some kids towards two grades improvement.

A quick note of topics to teach before the end of the syllabus in my planner suggests that we'll be revising by March 10, giving us a good three months of focus on improvements.

Here is the plan:
* Bi-weekly 90-minute long revision sessions. At the moment we're focusing on topics we've covered in class and will continue to do so. When we reach the end of the syllabus, we'll focus on troublesome topics from past papers.
* A second past paper over February half term. I'll be looking for improvements from their December mocks and celebrating those.
* Targeted revision from March 10 based upon their mock exam papers.
* A past paper in class to check progress made and identify areas for development prior to Easter.
* A 30-4-10 resource for revision over the Easter break.
* Continued targeted revision during the last half term.
* A 4-hour revision day during May's half term break.
* Personalised revision based on past papers in the week back to school.
* Revision breakfast on the morning of the exams, starting at 7:30am with a view to being done by 8:30am allowing pupils a 30-minute walk prior to their exam.

Target 32 starts on Tuesday... One A*, 11As and 10 Bs from set 2, please.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Redesign: The 11 Commandments for Mathematicians

I go on my Twitter a lot. When I wake up I see what I've missed, when I'm sat watching television I see what's going on and when I'm on the golf course I'm known to sneak a peek.

I favourited a tweet the other day, retweeted by @c0mplexnumber from @ColleenYoung that I wasn't sure I'd do anything with:

I've been a little bored, so I decided I'd give something a go. I like the outcome and figured others may too: