14 January 2017

World Cup of Maths

I taught composite and inverse functions to Year 11 for the first time last week. I loved it! For a minute I thought it might even be my new favourite topic... But there are loads of other topics I love teaching just as much, including Pythagoras, surds, indices, simultaneous equations, circle theorems, and angles in parallel lines. It's impossible to choose just one favourite!

I wondered if other teachers share my preferences. I turned to Twitter to find out. Inspired by Richard Osman's Twitter competitions (including the World Cup of Crisps), I ran a World Cup of Maths. I started with 32 GCSE topics. Topics were eliminated over the course of five days using Twitter polls. 864 maths teachers voted in the grand final, crowning quadratics as the most popular topic to teach at GCSE. Trigonometry was a worthy runner-up.

If you're wondering how your favourite topic got on, check out the full results below.

Are you happy with the winner? Please comment on this post to let me know what your favourite topic is and why.

Teachers get wonderfully enthusiastic when talking about their favourite topics. It was lovely to see so much discussion on Twitter about the joys and trials of teaching maths. I've shared some of my favourite tweets from the tournament below.

Thanks to everyone who voted, shared their opinions and made me chuckle with their tweets. At least there's one thing we all agree on - we love maths!

1 January 2017

Favourite Posts of 2016

A couple of days ago I published my ten most viewed posts of 2016. Today I've written a different list. These are my personal favourites from 2016 - the posts that I most enjoyed writing, or am most proud of, even if they didn't get many views.

1. Trigonometry Questions and Pythagoras Questions
In these two posts I featured some of my favourite new GCSE questions for Pythagoras and Trigonometry. There are some awesome questions here which I really enjoyed using in my lessons.

2. The Folder Experiment
I was surprised by how many people had a view on using ring binders instead of exercise books with Year 11!

3. New GCSE: Capture-Recapture
My school doesn't use Edexcel for GCSE so I don't need to teach this topic, but I had fun finding out about it. It's a lovely bit of proportional reasoning. If you teach Edexcel GCSE, you might find this post helpful.

4. Multiplying Negatives
I wish my blog was 100% subject knowledge posts. I'll try to do more of them in 2017. Here I talked about various approaches to explaining why a negative times a negative is a positive.

5. Maths School Trips
When Legoland invited me to visit, I was conflicted. I have strict rules about not advertising on my blog. But I really wanted to go to Legoland, and the opportunity to take my family there for free (on my daughter's birthday no less!) was one I couldn't refuse. Thankfully their Mindstorms workshop was amazing, so I had no qualms about giving it a positive write-up (alongside other destinations for maths school trips). I'm fond of this post because it reminds me of my daughter's 2nd birthday.

6. Useful GCSE Questions from Linked Pair Papers
I was a bit grumpy about having to teach Linked Pair GCSE last year but it turned out to be a useful experience. Linked Pair GCSE questions were often excellent and I featured some of my favourites in this post.

7. Gem Awards 2016
Two and a half years ago I joined Twitter whilst on maternity leave. I was overwhelmed by the quantity of teaching ideas and resources so I started writing a weekly gems post to keep track of it all. When I returned to work I couldn't maintain the frequency of the posts, but I still write one or two gems posts each month. I regularly refer back to them when planning lessons. In my annual Gems Awards post I featured some of my favourite gems from the previous year.

8. A Level Reforms: First Thoughts
I wish there were more maths teachers blogging about A level. With the new specifications launching in September, it's going to be important to collaborate with other A level maths teachers during 2017. I hope to play a part in facilitating discussions and sharing resources and ideas. 

One of the best things about writing this post was the tweet from the air traffic controller...

10. ♫ You say zero, I say nought ♫
Perhaps no one else is interested in whether people say zero or nought, but I thought it was fascinating!

11. Worries
The shortage of maths teachers is causing problems in so many schools. It continues to have a detrimental effect on children all over the country. I wrote this post when I was feeling particularly anxious about the whole situation, and found that many of my readers shared my concerns. Later in the year I wrote 'GCSE reform - will it work?' in which I shared more concerns about the big issues in maths education. Nothing has changed since then - my concerns still stand.

12. The Joy of Planning
Naveen wrote a TES article about how great it is not to plan her own lessons because it gives her time to develop her subject knowledge. I certainly understand Naveen's point - we could all do with more time for subject knowledge development. When the article was published, some prominent bloggers jumped on the idea of scripted lessons. On Twitter, the idea quickly developed into one where all lessons are standardised. I watched with sadness as tweeters enthusiastically discussed taking away my favourite part of the job. I tweeted my concern - that teachers wouldn't enjoy delivering scripted lessons - and I was accused of selfishly putting my own happiness before children's learning. This may well be true, but it upset me. Rather than argue, I decided to publish a positive post, 'The Joy of Planning', about how much pleasure I get out of the process of planning and delivering lessons. I received lots of lovely comments on Twitter from teachers who also really enjoy planning lessons. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

So that's it - my favourite blog posts of 2016. I thoroughly enjoyed writing these posts and hope that I can continue to share my experiences and ideas in 2017.

30 December 2016

Most Viewed Posts of 2016

I wrote 78 blog posts in 2016. That's an average of 1.5 per week. Here's a list of the ten posts that had the most views.

I wrote this post back in January to encourage people to take part in a Twitter chat about classroom displays, equipment and layout. I asked people to share photos of their classrooms because most of us like to have a peek at what's happening in other schools.

2. Divisibility Rules
My popular posts are normally about resources, but it makes me happiest when people read a subject knowledge post. In this post I talked about divisibility rules. These aren't taught as much as they should be. 

3. Classic Resources 
I was surprised to see a maths teacher on Twitter say they'd never heard of the Standards Unit. This prompted me to write a post about all the resources that I was taught about on my PGCE. It's really important that new teachers entering the profession know about these timeless classics.

4. GCSE 9 - 1 Revision Resources
In November I realised that teachers were struggling to help their students prepare for their mock exams because they felt that there was a lack of revision resources for the new GCSE. In this post I collated all the new revision resources that I was aware of - I will continue to add to this post over the coming six months.

5. A Level Revision Resources
Another popular post about revision - this one brings together exam preparation resources for A level students. It's a shame that it has a limited shelf life - most of the resources featured are designed specifically for the modular specifications, which are now coming to an end.

6. 5 Websites You Should Know... #1
My 'five websites you should know' series was well received. It was based on a presentation I did at a TeachMeet. I've written four out of the five posts so far, covering Corbett Maths, MrCarterMaths, MathsBot and MathsPad. 

7. Revision Clocks Galore
The revision clock idea originated from a geography teacher and was adapted by teachers in numerous subjects, including maths. This activity became very popular in the summer term. To help keep track of the huge number of maths revision clocks produced, I collected them all in one post.

8. Common Errors Made by Maths Teachers
A controversial post! After noticing a few misconceptions from trainee maths teachers at work, I wrote a post to discuss the fact that maths teachers sometimes get things wrong. We are all human after all! I was planning to crowd source a list of common errors and create a reference document for trainee teachers and NQTs. People are really sensitive about subject knowledge though, and after being accused of writing 'pedantic nonsense' I lost my enthusiasm for the idea. The post, and the extensive comments, are worth a read.

9. Five things you might not know about the new GCSE content #2 
10. Five things you might not know about the new GCSE content #1
My two most viewed posts of 2016 were about the new GCSE. The inspiration for these posts came from a tweet by Ben Ward. He spotted that graph stretches are no longer included in the GCSE 9 - 1 specifications, so I decided to find out if there were any other content changes that teachers might not know about. Across the two posts I featured ten bits of information that hopefully made teachers' lives a little bit easier. The popularity of the first post, which has currently had over 8,000 views, was probably due to the fact that Graham Cumming linked to it in one of his Edexcel Emporium emails.

I hope you found these posts helpful. They are my most viewed posts of 2016, though not necessarily the posts that I am most proud of - I will blog about those shortly!

28 December 2016

5 Maths Gems #67

Welcome to my 67th gems post. This is where I share the latest ideas and resources I've seen on Twitter. I used to write one of these posts every week but I now struggle to find the time, so this is my first gems post since November. I have some crackers for you today though!

1. Polygons
Ed Southall's (@solvemymaths) first video is well worth a watch. It explores the terminology, etymology and structure of naming polygons. I'm now eagerly looking ahead to when I next teach geometry so I can share this with my students!

2. My Favourite No
I first watched this video years ago but I've never put it in a gems post before. Thanks to Stephen Godwin (@stevejodwin) for reminding me about it after it appeared in Doug Lemov's recent blog post 'My Favorite No: Mistaking Knowledge Problems for Skill Problems'. Do watch the video below - it features a brilliant activity for exploring misconceptions.

3.  Primitives
I shared the lovely Furbles in Gems 21, but hadn't spotted the 'Primitives application' on the same website. This has been around for many years, but thanks to John G (@mathhombre) for recently sharing it on Twitter. This lovely interactive factorisation tool is really good for exploring numbers.
Primitives posters and teaching ideas are available from the ATM.

4. Euler's Number
Numberphile published a new video about e last week. I really enjoyed this video and plan to show it to my Year 13s next term.

5. Notepad Calculator
Colin Beveridge (@icecolbeveridge) tweeted about this excellent NotePad Calculator. I'm not sure whether I'll find it useful in the classroom but I love it anyway so thought it was worth sharing.

I've published six blog posts since Gems 66. They're listed here in case you missed them:

Do check out Don Steward's blog too - he's published a lot of new resources lately.

You might also be interested in Dr Frost's revision advice for A level students and Colin Beveridge's exam technique tips for the new GCSE.

I'll leave you with this animation of the surface area of a sphere, shared by Damian Ainscough (@damianainscough).

27 December 2016

Highlights of 2016

2016 has been truly awful... The best way to cope with so many terrible things happening in one year is to focus on the positives. In the world of maths education, there's been loads of fantastic stuff going on. Although we continue to face challenges relating to workload, behaviour, curriculum change and recruitment, there's still plenty to celebrate. In this post I share some of my favourite moments of 2016.

The Conferences
La Salle's conferences are always brilliant. I was gutted to miss their Leeds conference in June but I really enjoyed the Peterborough conference in March and the Kettering conference in October. La Salle are hosting even more conferences in 2017 (check out their dates and locations here) so if you haven't been before, do join us.
Pre-conference drinks in Peterborough in March

Teachers enjoying #mathsconf6 in Peterborough

Cake from Julia Smith at #mathsconf6
to celebrate my 50th gems post
Pre-conference drinks in Kettering
- we made Enigma machines!  
Rob Smith's tuck shop at #mathsconf8 in Kettering

The first researchED Maths and Science was held in Oxford in June 2016. It was excellent. I really hope to see this event return in 2017.
A wonderful venue for researchED Maths and Science

Maths teachers meet for lunch at researchED Maths and Science

In 2016 I attended a number of conferences as a presenter, including Edexcel's Warwick conference, the FMSP's London KS5 Network Day, and Coast2Coast TSA's maths conference.
Peter Mattock and I presenting at
Coast2Coast TSA's maths conference
Meeting my maths hero Hannah Fry at
Edexcel's Warwick conference
The Social Events
I really enjoy meeting up with maths teachers who I've chatted to on Twitter. A highlight this year was our trip to Bletchley Park in the summer holidays. We were so lucky to be treated to a tour of the grounds and a private demonstration of an Enigma machine.
Summer day out at Bletchey Park with fellow tweeters

Some of #teambletchley

La Salle organised their second summer meet up for maths teachers - Pie and Maths.
Summer drinks at #pieandmaths

I had a lovely time at one of Old Andrew's blogger curries.
Out for drinks with edubloggers, organised by
blogging legend Andrew Old

In December I hosted #christmaths16. 110 teachers got together for festive mathsy fun at the Science Museum followed by a night out at a Kensington pub.
Post-museum drinks at #christmaths16

Maths teachers enjoying #christmaths16
The Grassroots Events
This year I've attended a number of events at local schools. I presented at Maths in the Sticks which was an A level day run by Stuart Price, and I presented at Paul Collins' MathsMeet at Oakwood School. I also travelled up to Oldham to present at Lindsey Bennett's LIME event. I hosted my own event too - MathsMeet Glyn took place on a Saturday morning in March and starred one of my maths heroes, Don Steward.
Paul Collins at Oakwood School's MathsMeet
Ben Sparks presenting at Stuart Price's 'Maths in the Sticks' Event
With colleagues at lunch after #mathsmeetglyn

With Don Steward
at #mathsmeetglyn

The Websites and Resources
During 2016 the world of maths resources went from strength to strength.

Clarissa Grandi's artfulmaths.com is a beautiful new website, providing inspiration and resources for both classroom displays and creative maths lessons.

New website mrcartermaths.com is highly valued for its ease of use. Excellent websites such as mrbartonmaths.com, corbettmaths.com and mathsbot.com have continued to develop new content.

For A level teachers, undergroundmathematics.org arrived on the scene, providing high quality rich tasks from the team at the University of Cambridge. We also discovered the IYGB papers on madasmaths.com, providing a large bank of challenging exam style papers for A level students.

The prime game from Christian Lawson-Perfect provided hours of entertainment - and fierce competition - amongst maths teachers.

Throughout 2016 maths hubs all over the country supported teachers in both primary and secondary schools. The White Rose Maths Hub shared excellent schemes of work and assessment resources for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3.

Craig Barton's podcasts were a wonderful feature of 2016 - if you've not discovered these yet, they are well worth a listen. Look out for more of Craig's podcasts in 2017.
The Networks
Since joining Twitter in 2014, my career has been transformed. Its incredible network of teachers continues to provide an endless supply of support, advice, resources, ideas and encouragement. During 2016 I was fortunate to become involved with both the AQA Maths Expert Panel and the TES Maths Panel too.
Some of the AQA Maths Expert Panel members
sporting Christmas jumpers at our December meeting

I can't talk about my 2016 maths education highlights without mentioning my wonderful school and my awesome colleagues. They're a real pleasure to work with.
Lizzie and I with Year 13 maths students on their
last day at Glyn. They don't normally look so scruffy!

Celebrating results on the first day of the new
school year with colleagues Harry and Farah

With trainee teacher Sarah
at Glyn's staff Christmas party
With colleague Rachel at Glyn's
 staff Christmas dinner
Joint Heads of Maths Christina
and Catherine, with NQT Amelia 
Looking Ahead
2017 brings the first sitting of maths GCSE 9 - 1. The successful delivery of this new qualification will be something for maths teachers to celebrate. I worry about how the media and public will react to low grade boundaries and falling 'pass rates' though. I also worry about our poor 'guinea pig' year groups who won't be funded to resit if they get a Grade 4, even though it's likely they'll need a Grade 5 for future career opportunities.

2017 also brings the start of the new linear maths A level. Some of the specifications are not yet accredited, and it's with trepidation that I look ahead to the summer term. I expect that there will be a last minute rush to organise schemes of work, teacher CPD, resources and textbooks.

The Smith Report on post-16 education is due to be published any day now and I (nervously) look forward to seeing the recommendations.

There are many wonderful events planned for maths teachers in 2017 - see my event listings for details. I look forward to La Salle's next conference (11th March in Bristol) and I really hope I'll be able to attend the very exciting JustMaths conference at Alton Towers in June.

I'm positive that the many maths teacher networks, including our wonderful Twitter community, will continue to thrive in 2017.

We have a lot to look forward to.

Happy New Year, maths teachers!

23 December 2016

Merry #christmaths16

I have a lot of people to thank! 

Thank you to all 110 wonderful maths teachers who came to my event yesterday. I hope you had a great time.

Thank you to Andrew Jeffrey, the brilliant mathemagician who performed a fantastic show for us.

Thank you to all the individuals and organisations who kindly donated prizes and freebies - this was very much appreciated by all.

Thank you to the Science Museum, particularly Roderick and Sergi at the Media Space Cafe and the awesome Dr Kenny Webster, Head of Learning Operations. They were helpful, generous, professional and welcoming and I couldn't have done it without them.

Finally, thank you to everyone who helped to make my event run smoothly, particularly Lizzie and Gareth who were absolute superstars on the day.

It's so lovely to see maths teachers enjoying themselves at Christmas.

The Galleries
I was really pleased that the Science Museum provided #christmaths16 guests with free access to the WonderLab, so we had two mathsy galleries to explore on the day. The WonderLab is where all the fun interactive maths and science stuff takes place. It was a lovely space full of excited children. If you're going to take a school trip to the Science Museum (you can take a whole year group at once, free of charge), you'd spend time in both the Winton Gallery and the WonderLab. They also run free 20 minute maths and science shows in the WonderLab.
I didn't get much time to explore the Winton Gallery myself (I was too busy organising things!) but I will return there in the New Year. Check out the tweets in this Storify to see lots of pictures of #christmaths16 guests enjoying both the Winton Gallery and the WonderLab.
The Reception
For the reception we all had a glass of bubbly and a couple of mince pies in the Media Space Cafe.
Everyone got stuck into my quiz (more about that in a minute...) while Rob (@RJS2212) was presented with a fantastic birthday cake by Julia (@tessmaths). Meanwhile, I spent some time fighting off members of the public who thought that they were entitled to free alcohol (!).

We enjoyed a brilliant magic show from Andrew Jeffrey, which involved tearing playing cards in half!
We finished with a calculator-assisted raffle, with loads of amazing prizes.

If you weren't at #christmaths16 then you can have a go at my quiz here (last year's quiz is there too). There were some excellent and varied answers. It was a close call to choose the winners, but the glory goes to Lizzie, Amelia, Christina and Chris.

Quite a few people went to the Hereford Arms for dinner and drinks in the evening, with a brave few venturing out afterwards into the early hours of the morning. I got a taxi home and was in by midnight!

Thank you again to everyone who contributed to another successful Christmas event for maths teachers. Do check out my Storify here. If you didn't come, I hope you're able to visit the Science Museum soon to check out the all the mathsy goodness.

Merry Christmas everyone!