13 December 2017

New this Christmas

I have a page of seasonal resources which includes Christmas-themed maths activities. I think it's really important to do mathematics in every maths lesson throughout the year, but if half the class are out at carol service rehearsals or a lesson is cut short by an end of term assembly, then I see no harm in putting on a bit of Christmas background music while students get stuck into some festive algebra. I love a bit of Wham with my equations.

There are some classics on my seasonal resources page, such as Chris Smith's much-loved relay, but also quite a lot of new additions this year. I thought it might be helpful to list a few of these new resources here so you don't miss anything.

Topic Based
Dave (@d_e_humpty) has produced a lovely set of Christmas shape transformation activities which include translations, reflections and rotations.
Grant (@AccessMaths) has been hard at work producing Christmas resources including a Bauble Puzzle and a Higher and Foundation Christmas Tree Algebra Puzzle. 
MyMaths also has a new collection of Christmas resources including Christmas Algebra which might be suitable for Key Stage 2. 
Mr Bayle (@mrbaylemaths) shared a quick Christmas data collection activity where you play Jingle Bell Rock and students keep a tally of the word count for 'Jingle', 'Bell' and 'Rock'. 
Students at @Maths_CCB had a go, and made festive pie charts of the results.
Danielle (@PixiMaths) has helpfully shared a mixed-topic maths quiz that she made for her Year 9s.

It's nice to veer off-syllabus for a lesson or two. La Salle have a selection of Christmas enrichment resources including How to make an origami Santa and Christmas Colours which relates to the Four Colour Theorem.
Hexaflexagons are a personal favourite of mine. I became addicted last year after watching Vi Harts's outstanding hexaflexagon videos (if you haven't watched these yet, please do!).

I ran a couple of hexaflexagon lessons in the last week of the summer term. I showed the Vi Hart videos then handed out some templates for colouring. The videos got my students suitably excited about making hexaflexagons but some of them spent absolutely ages colouring, and then for the last 15 minutes of the lesson I had 30 hands up wanting help with the folding and flexing! Hard work. Most students ended up leaving the lesson with both a working hexaflexagon and cool mathematical stories to share at home.
Thanks to Jo Tomalin for sharing a festive hexaflexagon design.

Holiday Work
If your Year 11s have mocks in January then you might want to set them some Christmas holiday homework. Mel (@Just_Maths) has created lovely holiday GCSE homeworks for both Foundation and Higher tier. She has also shared a similar holiday homework for Key Stage 2.
Form Time
If you have any extended form time on the last day of term and your school hasn't provided any resources to keep your students entertained, try Mel's (@Just_Maths) excellent Christmas Pub Quiz.

Alternatively, maths teacher Graham Coleman (@colmanweb) has updated his awesome website Guess the Tunes which now includes Guess the Lyrics and Guess the Faces.

Cards and Gifts 
Maths Ed (@MathsEdIdeas) has shared a Christmaths card for schools to distribute to students and families, encouraging shared maths-play over the holidays. Editable files can be downloaded here and printed onto A4 to fold to A5. 
Finally, do check out my post The Top 5 Christmas Presents for Maths Teachers if you still have some Christmas shopping to do.

Enjoy the last week of term! The end is in sight.

Teachers Wine Glass from notonthehighstreet.com

6 December 2017

Algebraic Fluency - 50s Style

Whilst visiting the Mathematical Association in Leicester on Saturday, I picked up a couple of old maths textbooks from the 1950s. 'A Classbook of Algebra' is my favourite.
In it I found some wonderful exercises for developing algebraic fluency, including this set of questions on 'Miscellaneous Factors':

The instruction 'factorise where possible' adds a delightful extra level of intrigue and challenge to this exercise. I love these questions...

Factorise c - 3 + 2x(3 - c)

Factorise c2 - (c - d)2

Factorise ef - 1 + e - f

Factorise -14yz + y2 + 49z2

Factorise 81 - 9a  + 0.25a2

When I get a chance I'll type them all up. It does make you wonder why the vast majority of textbooks and worksheets on factorising these days simply have questions like this:

Factorise x2 +7x

Factorise x2 + 5x + 6

Factorise x2 - 9

and maybe this kind of thing for stretch:

Factorise 3x2 + 10x + 8

Factorise 2x2 - 18

Is that really the best we can do? We could at least change the order of the terms! No wonder so many of our students lack algebraic fluency when they get to A level.

If you're thinking that this factorising exercise from the 1950s is a bit tricky, you will be relieved to hear that in the same book there are a number of exercises breaking down the factorising skills into stages, leading up to the 'Miscellaneous Factors' activity which brings it all together. For example there is a whole section on 'Factors by Grouping' which explains how to factorise expressions like ax + 2x + 3a + 6. I'm not sure this skill is widely taught these days.
I have plenty of students who would love to get stuck into these questions. Back in 2015 I wrote the post 'Stretching Practice' which is about where to find good practice resources for high attainers. There's a decent selection of resources available, but nothing quite at the same level as the exercises from 1950s textbooks. I think that the closest online resources for developing algebraic fluency are some of Don Steward's tasks, like this excellent difference of two squares exercise:

I wish I could show you every exercise from 'A Classbook of Algebra'. There are so many great questions. I'll just share a few more examples...

Under the title 'Easy Brackets' we find questions that many teachers would now use as extension work in a lesson on expanding single brackets:
And under 'Miscellaneous Easy Brackets' the questions look very different to what we now consider to be 'easy':
When we teach 'collecting like terms' I doubt many of us use exercises like this one on 'Addition and Subtraction of Polynomials':
Check out the last question: 'To the excess of 6 - x + x2 over 5 + x- 3x add x2 -3x + 4'!

Do you want to check that your students really know how to expand brackets and solve equations? Try some of these:
Here we have double brackets too:
I wrote about multiplying negatives in this post, but the resources I featured didn't include algebra like this exercise does:
Finally (though I could go on all day!), here's something for your indices lesson:

If only I had time to type all these up!

I hope you enjoyed looking at exercises from the 1950s as much as I did.

25 November 2017

Mock Season

Many schools have Year 11 mock GCSE exams over the next few weeks. In case you have time to run a few revision lessons before your mocks start, this post provides a quick reminder of some great resources.

Access Maths
Access Maths is an excellent source of revision activities for the classroom. There's a large selection of resources on the 9 - 1 Revision Material page for both Foundation and Higher tier.
Corbett Maths
Even if you don't use Corbett Maths 5-a-Day on a daily basis then you still might find them useful in revision lessons. In my post about Structured Revision Lessons, I wrote about how I used 5-a-Day in the run up to last year's GCSEs. At five different difficulty levels, they're suitable for all GCSE students.
On Mathsbot.com you can generate GCSE revision grids containing questions for Foundation, Crossover or Higher. These grids can be displayed on the board or printed onto worksheets for revision lessons.
There are a number of other GCSE resources on MathsBot that might be helpful for mock revision.

Many schools use a QLA (question level analysis) to analyse performance by topic after exams. If you register with PinPoint Learning you can get QLA spreadsheets for free, all ready to complete, for every practice paper and past paper for all awarding bodies. So schools don't need to create their own QLA spreadsheets.

PinPoint Learning also offers a tool where you can upload your completed QLAs (or have students input their own marks) and produce a tailored booklet of questions for every student. A departmental analysis of mock results can also be generated. This normally comes with a subscription costing £400 a year but they are currently offering a free trial until 25th January.

More Resources
There are loads more revision resources in my post GCSE 9 - 1 Revision Resources and my post about Revision Clocks.

It's also worth reading my post Higher GCSE revision from 2015. I wrote it for the old GCSE but all the resources featured are still useful, including the excellent activities on Don Steward's practice blog.

Good luck with the mock marking everyone!

19 November 2017

5 Maths Gems #80

Welcome to my 80th gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. Times Tables Tool
La Salle Education have made a free version of their Times Tables app available to everyone. It includes multiple representation of multiplication and division facts. I look forward to using this with my daughter when she starts learning about multiplication.
2. Twinkl Taster Pack
I blogged about Twinkl's new secondary maths resources back in Gems 65. They've now shared a free taster pack which includes a set of revision mats suitable for Foundation GCSE students.
3. Quadratics Resources
Thanks to @TeacherBowTie for sharing some lovely quadratics resources including an A3 quadratics consolidation activity which would work well for revision and a problem solving activity for practising factorising.

I've added both resources to my algebra resource library.
4. Times Table Facts
This times tables resource from Anthony Clohesy is well worth a look - it shows the only 28 times table facts students need to learn, arranged in order from important (at the bottom) to difficult (at the top). While you're there, check out the rest of his website thechalkface.net.
5. Universcale
Thanks to my lovely colleague Jane Zimmermann for telling me about Nikon's 'Universcale' tool. This is great for exploring magnitude and measure. It reminds me of the popular 'The Scale of the Universe' that I shared in Gems 12, way back in 2014.

In case you missed it, my post 'The Top 5 Christmas Gifts for Maths Teachers This Year' was published by TeachWire. While you're thinking about your wish list, have a look at Craig Barton's new book 'How I Wish I'd Taught Maths' which is now available to pre-order. I've been very lucky to have a sneak preview of this book - it's fantastic. Look out for my blog post about it soon.

Did you catch my post about MathsJam? If you're a maths enthusiast then do try and get involved in your local MathsJam or come along to the annual gathering next year.

In September I took part in a researchED debate called 'When the maths hits the fan: what do the GCSE results really mean?'. The recording of that session has now been published online - if you have a spare 40 minutes, do have a listen.

If you intend to come to BCME (the hugely exciting maths conference taking place at Easter that I wrote about here) please remember that you only have a couple of weeks left to apply for a bursary. I've applied!

You also only have a couple of weeks left to share your view about the proposed subject association amalgamation - please add comments here.

Mock GCSE season is now upon us - look out for my upcoming blog post about the best revision resources and tools to support students in their exam preparation.

I'll leave you with this great question from Mark Chubb‏ (@MarkChubb3). Do these two have the same area? Same perimeter? Will this always be true no matter how they are put together?

13 November 2017

MathsJem at MathsJam

It was with some trepidation that I travelled up to Staffordshire on Saturday morning to attend my first ever MathsJam annual gathering. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I'm a regular attendee of maths education events, but this was different... I feared that I was in way over my head.

If you're not familiar with MathsJam, it's actually a monthly event which is run all over the world. On the second-to-last Tuesday of every month, maths enthusiasts get together (often in a pub) to play games, do puzzles, that kind of thing. Do check out the website to find your nearest MathsJam - there are loads in the UK. Once a year, MathsJammers get together for an annual gathering which, as I have now discovered, is utterly brilliant.

For most of the weekend, all 175ish attendees are based in one room, listening to a series of five minute talks about anything and everything. I reckon I understood around two thirds of the maths in the talks (ok, maybe more like a half...) but it was fine that some of the talks were a tad too advanced for me. They were still really interesting. I can't list all my favourites here but they included Zoe Griffiths ('A discourse on e'), Matthew Scroggs ('Big Ben Strikes Again'), Adam Townsend ('Stop! (or, using maths to pass your driving test)'), Alison Clarke ('Stupid Units'), Dave Gale ('Catchphrase and Coffee') and Katie Steckles ('Sheeran Numbers').
Around the edge of the room there were all sorts of geeky awesome things going on, including a Rubik's Cube solving robot, loads of maths games and puzzles, a table full of competitions, and an incredible selection of maths cakes. There were so many competitions (designed by attendees) that there was a competition competition (a competition to find the best competition). Bonkers, but delightful.

I absolutely loved the evening entertainment. I enjoyed drinks at the bar with my friends Mariana, Tim and Ed, and it was nice to catch up with the FMSP team. After dinner (the food was excellent!) we had the opportunity to get involved in an amazing selection of games and activities, all brought along by attendees. The evening also featured the MathsJam Jam which was my favourite part of the whole weekend! We basically just sat round singing maths songs... it was bloody brilliant. The lyrics were genius. I absolutely loved it and can't wait to do it again next year. Check out the songbooks here, and a couple of extracts below...

The next morning we had more talks, and by then I felt totally at home. The diversity of attendees was amazing, ranging from teenage maths enthusiasts to retired professors. The atmosphere was incredibly friendly and inclusive. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who enjoys maths. I can see why people come from so far away to attend the MathsJam annual gathering, and why they come back year after year.

I must say a huge thank you to the wonderful Colin Wright (@ColinTheMathmo), who does a superb job of organising the event, and to everyone else who was involved in running it. It was lovely to meet so many new people and to catch up with a few familiar faces. I can't wait to go again next year.

5 November 2017

5 Maths Gems #79

Welcome to my 79th gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. Percentages
Miss Konstantine (@GiftedBA) wrote a blog post about how she teaches percentages of amounts. In it she shared a lovely activity where the original amount isn't given but a different percentage is.
Don Steward liked this idea so much that he made a very similar activity, which is now linked in my resource library.

2. TES Freebies
I've never bought a resource from TES before but last week I found one that is going to save me a huge amount of time and printing budget... For my Papers Society I have to print a lot of GCSE papers, which is really expensive given that GCSE papers are usually around 20 - 30 pages long. Thankfully I found that a teacher (tpayne89) has put a lot of effort into cutting a selection of GCSE papers down to short A5 booklets - the resource is here

I know that some of you are so annoyed that TES now sells resources that you'd never contemplate buying one, but the rest of you might benefit from the fact that TES are offering a £5 voucher for first timer buyers to purchase a resource during November (use the code NOVEMBERNEWBIE).

3. Prime on a Lime
Inspired by 'Elf on a Shelf', Chris Smith (@aap03102) shared this picture on Twitter...
We had fun guessing the rhyming phrase for this picture and others shared by Chris... and then other people joined in and made their own. Julia Smith (@tessmaths) collected them together in a padlet - see if you can guess them all!

4. Key Stage 3 Support
Thanks to Lisa Pollard (@booleanmathshub) for sharing the NCETM's recent publication 'Teaching for Mastery: Questions, tasks and activities to support assessment in Key Stage 3'. It contains lots of useful question prompts that schools could incorporate into their Key Stage 3 Schemes of Work - here are two examples:

5. Mental Arithmetic
This is something that maths teachers will enjoy! Thanks to Paul Godding (@7puzzle) for sharing arithmetic.zetamac.com. This game is highly addictive! It's fun trying to beat your personal best.
In case you missed them, my recent posts were 'Success Stories: Core Maths' (thank you to everyone who commented on this!) and 'The Wonderful World of Maths Resources'.

If you're an A level teacher, do have a read of the post 'Blind spots in the new A Level Maths' from MarkIt. And if you work with trainees, check out Ed Southall's post 'Helping trainee teachers'.

Last weekend I had lunch with Lucy Rycroft-Smith and David Miles for a meeting of the MA Publicity and Media Committee. We have lots of exciting things planned for the year ahead.
The MA Publicity and Media Committee

If you're not a member of the MA then maybe you could put it on your Christmas list...  Gift memberships are now available to purchase (Primary £46; Secondary £62). If you're not sure whether it's worth joining, do have a read of my post 'Strength in Numbers'.

The MA is currently in talks with the other maths subject associations about amalgamation. I think that the creation of a single maths subject association would be a very important step forward for our profession. I encourage you to add your opinion here, whether you're a member of the MA or not. Thank you to everyone who has already done so.

If you're looking to change school this year (or for next September) and you live in Surrey or South London then please do drop me an email - my lovely school has vacancies. We have opportunities for trainees, NQTs and experienced teachers. We're happy to consider requests to work part time.

I'm off to my first ever MathsJam Annual Gathering next weekend! Exciting stuff. I'm looking forward to seeing lots of you there.

I'll leave you with this lovely puzzle, shared by Chris Smith (@aap03102) in his most recent newsletter. If you've not signed up, email Chris to subscribe.