25 June 2017


Yesterday I attended #mathsconf10 in sunny Essex. I'm very grateful to Mark McCourt and La Salle Education for another fantastic day of maths CPD and networking.

I started the day by meeting up with Lisa Winer, a math teacher from Florida who is visiting Europe for a couple of weeks. She's written a blog post about her trip here. We travelled from Central London to Essex by train and had plenty of time to check out the exhibition before the conference started. The format of the day was slightly different to previous conferences - because there were so many workshops, there was an additional session added to the programme and no keynote at the start. This worked well - it was good to be able to choose five workshops, though choices were as difficult as ever.

In the first session I presented my 'Angles in Depth' workshop. This is the first in a new series of workshops where I look at a topic in depth (misconceptions, explanations, resources etc). I feel quite strongly that this is something that maths teachers need, though I think it will take me a while to convince people of this! I blogged about it here.
Apart from the uncomfortably hot room and the glare on the screen, I think my session went well. I focused specifically on two angle facts - adjacent angles on straight lines and angles in a triangle. After my workshop, lots of members of the audience told me stories of their experience teaching angles - the misconceptions they'd seen and the approaches they'd used - which was brilliant.

Lots of people at the conference requested that I share my session online. It makes a lot more sense if you actually hear me talk through it, but here you go:

Links and sources are in the notes at the bottom of each slide.

Once I've made a few more of these I'll put them on a separate page so they're all in one place.

The idea is that these slide packs are shared with trainee teachers the first time they teach these topics. My next session, at Sheffield in September, will focus on angles in parallel lines.

After my session Charlie Dawson showed me a brilliant manipulative which is really simple to make:

In the second session I attended Mark McCourt's workshop on the history of maths education. I did a lot of research on this earlier in the year because I ran a session on it for my SCITT trainees, but I felt that I had some gaps in my knowledge so it was worth attending Mark's session to find out more. As expected, this was a really interesting session. It's fascinating that maths education keeps swinging from progressive to traditional and back again.

I then went to Andrew Taylor's session where he talked about his personal history of problem solving. He shared some lovely Malcolm Swan problems, including Skeleton Tower from the blue box.
When he shared the marking guides for the old maths GCSE coursework it made me very happy that I became a teacher after coursework was removed from GCSE. Tilly's tweet about this really made me laugh:

Andrew spoke about the reasons that coursework was discontinued and how exams now try to test problem solving skills, though of course we know that conducting mathematical investigations under time conditions is not ideal.

During this workshop a lot of people attended the lovely Jemma Sherwood's session on feedback and came out saying that they were going to start using exit tickets and wanted to know where to find some. I think exit tickets are a great idea - I don't use them but some of my colleagues do. I blogged about them last year here and included some links to exit ticket resources (though, arguably, an exit ticket should only take a few minutes to create so teachers may be better off making their own tailored exit tickets instead of using pre-made ones).

At lunch I popped along to the tweet-up and tried (unsuccessfully!) to make a cobra weave stick bomb with Lucy Rycroft-Smith.

After lunch I attended Rachel Horsman's session 'Geometrical Gems'. This was a lovely session full of practical activities. My favourite part was the Area Game, which I played with Martin Noon. The idea is to take it in turns to draw lines inside a rectangle to form triangles. When you form a triangle you claim it by colouring or labelling it. Each line you draw must start where the previous line finished and has to meet the other side of the rectangle. The person with the biggest total area at the end wins.
It's obvious now, but whatever you do you'll end up with a draw - because you'll both have the length of the rectangle as your total base, and all the triangles have the same height. Clever!

In the final session Dani and Rose headlined with a workshop on workload. I didn't go to this session because I feel that my workload is as under control as it can be. Most of the big drains on my workload (UCAS references, mock marking etc) are unavoidable. A lot of the tweets mentioned quizzes, which I've been using for a couple of years now and absolutely love. Regular low stakes quizzes are one of the best changes to my practice that I've made in recent years and I cannot recommend them enough (I blogged about it here). A level marking and feedback for a giant class of 28 is the main thing that's caused me ongoing workload issues this year - I'm not convinced that quizzes are a suitable alternative at A level, but I suppose it's worth considering.

Instead I went to Peter Mattock's session 'Opportunities for Reasoning' in which he shared lots of interesting activities and resources, including this from the Standards Unit which requires students to explain what's happening in each step:
He also shared his lovely fractions activity which you can download here.

I stayed for a couple of drinks after the conference and had a lovely chat with fellow maths teachers. Overall it was a great day and I look forward to the Sheffield conference in September.

In case you're interested, my previous maths conference blog posts can be found here:
#mathsconf9 (March 2017)
#mathsconf8 (September 2016)
#mathsconf6 (March 2016)
#mathsconf5 (September 2015)
#mathsconf4 (June 2015)
#mathsconf2015 (March 2015)
Gems 8 (September 2014)

I'm going to the JustMaths Conference on Tuesday (two maths conferences in four days!) - if you're going, see you there.

16 June 2017

Topics In Depth

This year I've been responsible for running subject knowledge enhancement sessions for five trainee maths teachers. Over the course of the year, I realised something: maths teachers spend a lot of time talking about general approaches and strategies, but very little time looking at specific topics in detail.

Examining a topic in depth prior to teaching it is incredibly powerful. Even if we've taught that topic many times before, we still benefit from taking a step back and thinking about misconceptions, approaches, explanations and resources. If we had more time then we'd be able to do this with colleagues on a regular basis. We could draw on some of the excellent topic specific resources available online, such as the National Strategy materials, the NCETM's Departmental Workshops and Colin Foster's Instant Maths Ideas. What a shame that we are so busy teaching, we rarely get time to do this.

It's very clear to me why Ed Southall's book 'Yes, But Why?' is Sage's bestselling book of the year. Rather than sharing general ideas for how to teach maths, it goes into detail on individual topics. This is what maths teachers need.

My Project
I'm excited to launch a new project! My aim is to create a series of 45 minute sessions on the entire range of topics in secondary mathematics (this will probably take me years to complete!). The sessions will cover subject knowledge (the facts, the 'why', the misconceptions) and teaching ideas (approaches, resources, good questions for assessment, how to stretch and challenge etc).

I hope that my sessions will be useful for trainees, NQTs and non-specialists preparing to teach a topic for the first time, and also for experienced teachers. These sessions could be used in schools - for example if all Year 8 teachers are about to teach indices, then they could get together and run through my (yet to be written) session on indices.

I've spent many hours pulling together the very best animations, questions, resources, examples and puzzles for my first two sessions. My first session - which I'm presenting at #mathsconf10 - is on angles, focusing mainly on adjacent angles on straight lines and angles in triangles. My second session - which I'll probably run in Sheffield - is on angles in parallel lines. I'm really excited to present what I've found. It's amazing how much there is to say on each of these topics if we really look at them in depth. I believe it's worth taking the time to do so.

13 June 2017

New GCSE: Done!

Over the last couple of years we've all been working incredibly hard to deliver the new GCSE. It feels quite surreal that after all the uncertainty, nerves and excitement, the first sitting is now over and done with.

Most teachers felt that the exams were as expected, pitched at a similar level to the mock exams and providing good coverage of the full range of topics on the specification. We knew that the exams would be harder than the legacy GCSE, and they most definitely were. We knew that the hardest questions would allow us to better identify the very best mathematicians, and it certainly looks like that will happen. We knew that some students would find the exams inaccessible. We still have a long way to go.

Now we're impatiently waiting for results day! And we're continuing to teach our Year 10 classes, but with more resources, experience and certainty than we had this time last year.

Looking back over the last few years, there are some people I'd like to thank for their outstanding contributions to the successful delivery of the new GCSE across the country.

Mel Muldowney - JustMaths
Mel's individual contribution has been absolutely amazing. She has written blog posts providing detailed information and resources for new topics, she has represented the views of maths teachers in discussions with Ofqual, she has collated questions by topic (I used these almost every single day!), and she's done so much more. Mel has worked tirelessly to support the maths teaching community. She deserves a massive thank you for everything she's done.

The Exam Boards
I know it's their job to deliver the new GCSE, but kudos to the awarding bodies for the excellent support they've offered over the last two years. They've done a brilliant job of keeping us informed - I've been particularly impressed by their instant responses to queries on Twitter. They've also provided quality resources both for teaching and assessment. Special mention to AQA for their Teaching Guidance, to Edexcel for their new content resources and to OCR for their Check-In Tests. Our competitive awarding bodies strive to deliver excellent customer service and quality materials, and us maths teachers have certainly benefited from this over recent years.

The Resource Makers
This time two years ago I was worried that new GCSE topics were woefully under-resourced. But thanks to the hard work of teachers who generously share their resources for free, there hasn't been a single lesson in the last two years where I haven't used high quality resources. There are too many individuals to list here, but they know who they are! Social media has enabled maths teachers to collaborate nationally like they never could before. Thank you to everyone who has made that happen.

The Teachers
I know we're still waiting for results, but I really think that all maths teachers across the country deserve a pat on the back for delivering the new GCSE. We didn't ask for a new qualification, and we weren't happy about the rushed implementation. Admittedly, we've moaned a fair amount along the way. We've been anxious and uncertain at times, but we've gone into classrooms everyday and delivered maths lessons with expertise, professionalism and enthusiasm. Today we should take a moment to celebrate. Job done.

And now... let's do it all over again!

4 June 2017

5 Maths Gems #73

Welcome to my 73rd gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. GCSE Paper 2 and 3
So, we've had the first new GCSE papers! Like everyone else, I was full of nerves and excitement on the day. Years of preparation and it finally happened. Many teachers will see their Year 11 students for revision sessions at some point over the next two weeks. If you're looking for resources for those sessions, check out Adam Creen's post where he has collated all the practice papers for Edexcel that were made after Paper 1. There's a lot to choose from! If you're AQA then head over to corbettmaths.com for practice papers. Students should continue to revise all topics, even if they appeared on Paper 1, but these resources are helpful for focusing specifically on topics that haven't yet come up.
2. GCSE Workout
Sticking with GCSE revision - a lot of people (including me) used @Adam SmithMathsnon-calculator Higher workout with their Year 11s the day before Paper 1. It took my students a good 45 minutes to complete, and uncovered a number of gaps in their knowledge. I've now made a calculator version - you can download this Higher GCSE workout from TES. Thanks to @onechriswhite who has made a helpful tip sheet to go with this resource

I've also created two shorter calculator workouts. These are intended to be used in pre-exam breakfast revision sessions and should each take 15 - 30 minutes. You can download my breakfast workouts from TES.
I've mentioned before that intermediate papers are a good source of GCSE practice questions, and it turns out that an intermediate question from 1997 was reused in this year's Edexcel Paper 1 (both Foundation and Higher) - thanks to Jo Weaver for spotting this. This is something to bear in mind for future years - old intermediate questions probably won't be used again, but intermediate papers remain a helpful resource for GCSE students.

3. Parabolator
On the odd occasion that I make my own resources, I sometimes need an online tool to sketch a simple graph. When I made my quadratic inequalities resource I used graphsketch.com, but even that isn't quite as clutter-free as I'd like. I'm pleased that @theshauncarter has now made a lovely user-friendly tool called Parabolator. With this tool you simply move a parabola to the required position and mark some points, then the sketch is instantly available to paste into resources. Read Shaun's post for more information.
4. A Level Summer Work
I find that setting summer work for students before they start A level maths is a bit hit-and-miss, particularly given that some students don't decide they want to do maths until the first day of Year 12. But, like many schools, we do have A level induction days coming up and this is a good opportunity to set some kind of preparatory tasks for our Year 11s who plan to take maths next year.

It's worth reading Kim Pitchford's (@ms_kmp) post 'Pre-A level skills boost'. She has produced a booklet full of enriching maths-related activities that students can do over summer, including playing Sumaze and watching Numberphile videos.

Another tool that's worth a look is Bridge It! which is an excellent MEI quiz game to support preparation for post-GCSE maths. Students register and then work their way through a series of levels ranging from basic arithmetic to trigonometry and vectors. 
5. Problems Booklet
Sandra from mathsbox.org.uk has shared a free booklet containing 55 maths problems.
This prompted me to tidy up my Problem Solving Resources page where you'll find similar resources for both primary and secondary school students.

In case you missed them, here are my recent posts:

Over the coming months I'll probably be blogging a fair amount about preparing for the new A level. As soon as I get some gained time it will be my main focus. There's lots to do - schemes of work, resources, content splits and so on. I'll be preparing to teach mechanics for the first time too.

I'm speaking at two conferences in the coming months - #mathsconf10 in London and #mathsconf11 in Cardiff. Both are on Saturdays and only cost £25 so do come along if you can. My workshops are part of a new series of talks where I will look in depth at specific topics, speaking about approaches, misconceptions and resources.

I will also be attending the JustMaths Conference on 27th June which I'm really looking forward to.

Tickets are currently on sale for my exciting summer maths teachers' event - check out summaths.weebly.com for details.

On my @Team_Maths1 account I've shared some classic resources over half-term, so if you're on Twitter do check it out.

Finally, I'll leave you with a nice puzzle shared by @solvemymaths via @sansu_original. I don't often make time to try random maths puzzles but I had a quick go at this and enjoyed it! What's the ratio AB:BC?

25 May 2017

New A Level Timings

After exam season is over, I expect that Heads of Maths and Key Stage 5 Coordinators all over the country will be making plans for delivering the new A level from September.

Timings at A level always make me nervous. I hate having to rush my teaching. Linear A levels are meant to improve the situation, but I'm not convinced that there will be much chance to slow down.

My school (a suburban comprehensive school with a large Sixth Form) has nine hours a fortnight teaching time at A level. I recently did a poll on Twitter to find out how this compares to other schools. Here are the results:
At my previous school I only had eight hours a fortnight and it worked fine, mainly because the vast majority of my students got an A* in their maths GCSE. I now have a lot of students who got a B in their GCSE, so the start of the year has to go at a relatively slow pace. Instead of briefly revising surds, indices and quadratics, many students need these topics taught from scratch. The same will probably be true of grade 6 students starting A level maths this September.

Later in the year, time is lost to internal exams - at my school we have multiple rounds of 'PPEs' (pre-public exams), amounting to at least six weeks off timetable over the course of Year 12 and 13. Although I do see some benefits to formal internal exams, I'd prefer to see more of this assessment happen during lessons so that loss of teaching time is minimised. 

If a fire alarm goes off when I'm teaching A level I want to cry! The time pressure is such that every lost hour is a worry. Lessons are also lost to inset days, bank holidays and school events, so a degree of flexibility has to be built into schemes of work. 

By my calculations, I will have approximately 270 hours in which to deliver the new A level over two years. This assumes that I will teach right up until the end of April 2018. 

Edexcel's scheme of work recommends 360 hours. So I'm 90 hours under. Eek.

Daniel Fox (@danielfox66) told me that his school has applied a two thirds reduction to all of Edexcel's suggested teaching times in order to make things fit. I think my school will probably have to do something similar. Hopefully that will also leave some time for revision and in-class assessment throughout the two year course. 

Having looked through the scheme of work, there are some topics where I definitely wouldn't want to reduce Edexcel's recommended timings. But, for example, their suggestion of seven hours in Year 12 on binomial expansions could easily be reduced to four hours. We will need to go through the scheme of work in detail, topic by topic, and work out where hours can be cut. I think it's feasible, it just requires a bit of work. 

Once the timings are sorted, the next task is to work out how to sensibly split the content between two teachers.

I'd like to hear how other schools are approaching timings, schemes of work and content splits. It makes a lot of sense for schools to share what they've done, so that we're not all re-inventing the wheel. Please get in touch through Twitter or by commenting below.

23 May 2017


Today is #malcolmswanday - a day for members of the maths education community to celebrate the life of the late Professor Malcolm Swan. Peter Mattock's blog post explains how you can get involved. I did not have the privilege of meeting Malcolm Swan myself, though I was lucky enough to be introduced to his awesome Standards Unit resources during my PGCE. Since then I have blogged a number of times about his resources, including my posts 'Classic Resources' and 'The Hidden Treasures of Shell Centre'. If you're not familiar with the work of Malcolm Swan, I recommend that you read his obituary in The Guardian and this lovely tribute from MEI.

In this post I share four examples of my favourite Malcolm Swan resources - those of the Mathematics Assessment Project. This project was based in America but I find that many of the resources work well in my classroom, from Key Stage 3 through to Key Stage 5.

1. Describing and Defining Quadrilaterals
I used to dislike teaching quadrilateral properties - I couldn't find any good resources that helped me assess my students' understanding. Then I discovered Describing and Defining Quadrilaterals from Malcolm Swan and his team at the Mathematics Assessment Project. The lesson materials include discussion prompts and assessment tasks. As in the Standards Unit, misconceptions are highlighted...

...and some elements of the lesson are scripted.

The resources provided are excellent, including this lovely activity:

2. Using Standard Algorithms for Number Operations 
This lesson is intended to improve students' conceptual understanding of why and how written methods of arithmetic work (such as column addition) and develop procedural fluency. Again, the lesson materials include questioning prompts and potential misconceptions. Tasks include 'Getting it Wrong':

3. Classifying Equations of Parallel and Perpendicular Lines
This lesson works well at both GCSE and A level. I remember giving the task below to my Year 10s for a homework last year and being surprised by how hard they found it.

The lesson materials are packed full of excellent tasks, including this:

... and a collaborative task in which students have to group equations of straight lines according to their properties.

4. Applying Angle Theorems
In this lesson students are presented with four alternative methods for solving this angle problem:
The task requires students to make sense of the different methods and evaluate each approach.

There are loads of excellent resources to explore on the Mathematics Assessment Project website, from full lessons to short assessment tasks (which work really well as homeworks). Do explore this website if you haven't already - Malcolm Swan was an absolute legend, and his resources are a testament to his brilliance.

20 May 2017

Calculators for the New A Level

In September over 100 students at my school will be starting the new A level course. I've been trying to find out exactly what calculator they will need and how they can get the best deal.

I'll say upfront that I am most definitely not a calculator person. Some maths teachers get really excited about calculators. I don't. I lost my lovely 20-year-old calculator last year so bought the Casio 991EX ClassWiz at #mathsconf8 in October. I've only used it for standard calculations so far, and my main thoughts are: (a) the font is weird (b) the menus are quite user-friendly and (c) the white case gets dirty quickly. That's about it. People who love calculators seem to really love the ClassWiz. It has some neat features - if you're interested, this review on Amazon gives some insight into the functionality that people are getting excited about.

The ClassWiz is not the only calculator that's suitable for the new A level (do check out the TI-30X Pro too). But I have a feeling that the ClassWiz will be the one that most new A level students are told buy in September, which is why I'm focusing on the ClassWiz in this post.

Around 100,000 students will each spend over £20 on a new calculator this September. £2,000,000 spent on calculators is a really big deal. So before our students collectively give Casio this vast amount of money, I need to be sure that it's absolutely necessary.

This extract is from MEI's website:
"Ofqual's subject-level conditions and requirements for Mathematics and Further Mathematics state that calculators used must include the following features:
  • an iterative function
  • the ability to compute summary statistics and access probabilities from standard statistical distributions
  • the ability to perform calculations with matrices up to at least order 3 x 3 (FM only)
For the 2017 A levels students will require a calculator that can calculate Binomial and Normal probabilities directly from values. The minimum standard for this is an advanced scientific calculator, such as the Casio 991EX ClassWiz or the TI-30X Pro..."

Just to clarify - A level maths students will probably already have a calculator from GCSE that does everything they need - except binomial probabilities. This is the one thing that they will need to buy a new calculator for.

Everything else that the ClassWiz does that current calculators don't do is a 'nice to have' for the new A level but not essential. It does do some cool stuff, but bear in mind that the extent to which 'nice to have' functionality is used depends heavily on whether teachers know how to use the functionality themselves and have enough time to teach it to their students. My understanding is that timing for the new A level is going to be really tight as it is (my school has nine hours a fortnight at A level and I'm told that it probably won't be enough time to get through the content). Given time constraints and huge class sizes, I can't see that I'll be spending much (if any) time on any non-essential calculator skills.

We're told that there is now a 'requirement for the use of technology to permeate teaching and learning' at A level. I'm a big fan of using Desmos in lessons - most A level maths teachers have been doing this for years anyway. Desmos is free, easy to use and works well on students' phones. The large data set work will probably be done in Excel or Geogebra so I guess I'll be booking IT rooms for that when the time comes (which is easier said than done!).

People who are looking to make money from calculator sales might try to convince teachers that graphical calculators are a requirement for the new A level. This is misleading. I'll stick with Desmos. Graphical calculators do offer some benefits to students but even the newest models are dated and unintuitive. The article "Pricey Graphing Calculators Could Be Headed for Extinction" is worth a read. In many schools this expensive equipment ends up sitting unused in a cupboard after a year or two. However, if you're skilled at using graphical calculators and you have the time to teach your students how to use them properly, then that's great - by all means buy them for your students (they're expensive so this unlikely to be an option in large schools) or ask students to buy one themselves (probably only an option in private schools).

So, in summary, for A level maths it is essential that students buy a new calculator, purely for binomial probabilities, and the ClassWiz is a sensible choice for most students.

Where to buy
On A level induction day next month, I'll tell my students that they will have to buy a new calculator in September (once they've confirmed they are definitely taking maths). I would like them to buy their calculators through high street retailers.

Presumably the first month or so of maths A level will focus on non-calculator topics that were previously in C1, so October half-term might be a reasonable deadline for students to buy their new calculator.

Casio tells me that the ClassWiz will hit retailers in 'maybe September', but probably at a higher price than they are currently on sale for. A bit more certainty on dates would be helpful - this is all a bit too last minute for me. I'm frustrated by Casio's approach here. I very much hope that Casio has enough stock to cater for huge levels of demand in September.

Casio warns to avoid buying the ClassWiz from Amazon at the moment because 'they sell non UK imports'. The ClassWiz currently being sold on Amazon for £32.50 comes with foreign language instruction manuals.

Many schools are buying calculators in bulk for their teachers to use, or to sell to their students. Sources of calculators include:

There may be discounts for bulk orders. VAT can be reclaimed if the calculators are for school use, but not if sold to students.

I'm reluctant to buy in bulk and sell to students because we've had nightmares with this in the past (does anyone want to buy three unopened boxes of brand new C2 textbooks from us? Didn't think so). I'd rather students took responsibility for their own calculator purchase.

Dr Frost is an absolute superstar and has created a brilliant free tool for training staff and students in how to use the ClassWiz. It's a PowerPoint guide explaining every key and mode.
Casio offers an emulator, but the licence is £9.95 + VAT per year per computer.

If you want your team to be trained on how to use all the functionality on the ClassWiz, perhaps speak to your local Maths Hub. This certainly seems like something the Maths Hubs could usefully offer in July and September if they have the expertise. The FMSP is offering numerous free calculator events but these sessions focus on graphical calculators, not the ClassWiz.

Calculator suppliers are not the only companies cashing in on the change to A levels and GCSEs. Textbook publishers are benefiting too. With such limited funds in education - redundancies, growing class sizes and leaking roofs - this is a frustrating use of public money. Curriculum change is an expensive business.

People have said to me that 'kids these days' don't think twice about buying the latest iPhone so £30 for a calculator isn't a big deal. Perhaps it's not a big deal on an individual basis, but I'm looking at the bigger picture - over £2 million. That's a big deal.

13 May 2017

5 Maths Gems #72

Welcome to my 72nd gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. Solve Me Puzzles
Back in Gems 17 I shared the excellent Mobiles problems on solveme.edc.org. People got quite excited about these at the time. Thanks to a recent tweet from Daniel Finkel (@MathforLove), I discovered that this website has expanded. The new section, Who Am I?, consists of hundreds of delightful little number puzzles which start off easy and get much harder. These are adorable.
The Mystery Grids are also excellent. Do explore - it's a great website.

2. Underground Maths
There has been a lot of buzz about Underground Maths lately. When I attended Maths in the Sticks last week I got the chance to have a go at some great problems, including the lovely Integral Chasing and Discriminating activities.

Underground Maths have now produced an incredibly helpful spreadsheet linking all their resources to the new A level content specification. This is perfect timing as many schools will be starting work on their new A level schemes of work in a few weeks.
They've also produced a nice set of classroom posters.

3. MathsPad
I've been using lots of MathsPad resources lately. Yesterday I used their prime factorisation activity in a revision lesson with Year 11.
Extract from 'Using Prime Factorisation'

If you don't already subscribe to MathsPad, I recommend getting it set up for September. They add lots of new resources every month. Some of their resources are available for free - including some recent additions: a workbook on mental calculation strategies, a linear graph interactive tool, a quadratic inequalities interactive tool and a tangent drawing tool. The tangent drawing tool is fun because you get to see how close you were to the correct gradient.

4. The Essence of Calculus
Grant Sanderson (@3Blue1Brown) has added ten new videos on calculus. They explain the underlying concepts beautifully. Even for experienced calculus teachers, these offer incredible subject knowledge development. It's worth making time to watch these.

5. Exam Preparation 
I really like the slides that Mel from justmaths.co.uk has produced for Year 11 in their final countdown to exams. She blogged about them here. I've attempted to make various versions of this over the years but from now on I'll use Mel's slides because they're way better than my attempts! A great resource, perfectly timed.

It's been a really busy few weeks! School is absolutely manic with exam preparation. I launched my #summaths event, hosted a #mathscpdchat, wrote a Schools Week article and attended Maths in the Sticks. In case you missed anything, here are some of my most recent blog posts:

My 9 - 1 Revision Resources post has been popular lately, reaching almost 20,000 views. Do check out my A level Revision Resources post too - I've added a few new activities.

As part of the TES Maths Panel I helped pull together a new GCSE resources feature which is well worth checking out. There are four recommended TES resources listed for every single GCSE topic. It's an impressive collection! I think these pages will really speed up the process of finding good resources.

If you want to come to my #summaths event at Bletchley Park then book soon! In only three days I've sold 24 out of 80 tickets. Exciting!

9 May 2017

Book now for #summaths

I really enjoyed running #christmaths events in 2015 and 2016 but this year I'm doing something a bit different. My annual social and enrichment event for maths teachers has moved to the summer holidays!

#summaths will take place on the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend. It's just before most of us start the new school year, so perfect timing to be inspired.

If you've never been to Bletchley Park before then you are in for a treat. It's brilliant there - I absolutely love it. I've negotiated discounted entry, plus you'll be able to attend Enigma workshops while you're there. Later in the day you can visit The National Museum of Computing next door which is full of the most fascinating geekiest stuff you'll ever see. 

Socialising is an important part of my events! If you can stay for the evening, join us in the pub. It's a bank holiday so no one has to wake up early the next morning! Book a room if you're coming from a long way away - it's less than £50. I'll meet you for a hungover breakfast in the morning...

All the details can be found at summaths.weebly.com. Book your ticket quickly - there are only 80 places available so I expect this to sell out. Everyone welcome!

6 May 2017

#mathscpdchat - Year 7 Topics

I'm hosting #mathscpdchat between 7pm and 8pm on Tuesday 9th May. We'll be discussing what topics are taught in Year 7, and in what order. To join in the discussion, please tweet your thoughts, making sure you include the hashtag #mathscpdchat in your tweet. I'd love to see a screenshot of your school's Year 7 curriculum and hear what works well and what doesn't.

To start us off, here are a few examples:

Don Steward sent me his Year 7 curriculum, shown below.
Don believes that we should ensure that Year 7 is not just a repeat of Year 6. What strikes me most about his curriculum is the explorations that feature throughout the year (notably in the first two weeks), and the wide range of attainment topics. From a student's perspective, there's lots of new, exciting mathematics here.

The White Rose Maths Hub has produced a very different Year 7 Programme of Study - the overview is shown below. Much of Year 7 is spent developing key number concepts. The idea is that students who are successful with number are more confident mathematicians and better equipped to tackle the topics that follow. With 'mastery' being all the rage at the moment, I think that a lot of schools have started moving towards this approach.
A few years ago I read about the teaching order that Bruno Reddy developed during his time at King Solomon Academy (he blogged about it here). At the time I was struck by the contrast between this curriculum and the Key Stage 3 curriculum I was used to. Calculating the mean features in multiplication and division. Proportion is paired with pie charts. Bruno wrote,
"You should notice that more time is given to number work at the beginning of year 7 (especially times tables), we spend one half-term at a time teaching a topic rather than 2 weeks, some things are ‘missing’ (because they’re taught in KS4), we’ve tried to separate minimally different concepts and we’ve thought carefully about the order things are taught in so that all the while we’re building on top of prior learning."
Kangaroo Maths is a popular source of Schemes of Works. The example below is for Year 7s working at the minimum expected standard at the end of Key Stage 2. This is just the unit overview, you can see a lot more detail here.
In my own school we are currently developing our Year 7 curriculum. We tried something new this year but we still need to make some tweaks. I felt that negatives numbers came too late in the year, featuring at the end of the summer term. Changing a Year 7 curriculum is a big job as it has a knock-on affect on the Schemes of Work of all other year groups. Assessments, and possibly other resources like homework booklets, also need to be re-written, which is really time consuming.

I'd love to hear about your experiences in developing and delivering Year 7 curricula. Tell me how you start the year, tell me what topics link well together, and tell me how you develop enthusiastic, inquisitive mathematicians. I'd also like to hear how you assess Year 7 and at what stage you do any baseline assessment. What works well for you? Please join in #mathscpdchat on Tuesday to let me know your thoughts.

1 May 2017

Schools Week Article

I wrote an opinion piece for Schools Week - do have a read and let me know what you think.

This follows on from my article about maths teacher shortages and the new GCSE that was published in Schools Week in December 2014.

29 April 2017

Structured Revision Lessons

Revision season is upon us! I mainly teach exam classes (Year 11, 12 and 13) so exam preparation is currently a big focus for me. For Year 12 I feel a sense of urgency - I only finished teaching the C2 specification yesterday and their C1 exam is fast approaching. Eek.

Thankfully I finished teaching my Year 11s the GCSE specification at the end of last term, leaving me a good 20 lessons for revision. I teach a top set - their target grades range from 5 to 8 and I think their current grades probably range from 4 to 9.

Throughout the year I've been drawing up a list of topics that I need to reteach. The list is very long! It includes indices, constructions, bounds, congruence, linear graphs and algebraic fractions. This information mostly came from marking mocks, plus the weekly quizzes we've done over the last two years. I also used AQA's revision list to check that I hadn't missed anything on the specification. 

Unlike previous years, I'm following a set format in my Year 11 revision lessons. Routine works well with my students. 

On arrival to each lesson they find a Corbett Maths 5-a-day on their desk. This is printed on A5, double sided. On the front is a set of Higher questions, on the back is Higher Plus. This combination is exactly the right pitch for my students - even the strongest are finding the Higher Plus questions sufficiently challenging, so no one is getting bored. These 5-a-day exercises are perfect for getting students to revise a mixture of topics, including the topics that I can't devote an entire revision lesson to. When they get stuck they ask me for help or confer with a friend. It takes quite a while for my students to work through these questions - a good 15 to 20 minutes to complete both sides. Then I go through the answers, briefly summarising the key points for each of the topics covered.

This leaves me half the lesson to focus on a particular topic - for example one lesson last week focused on circle theorems, another on similarity. I speak for about 10 to 15 minutes, reminding my students of the key points and common misconceptions, and running through an exam question or two. Some years ago I realised the importance of this teacher-led instructional element of revision lessons. If they're struggling with a topic, they won't magically get better without some additional teaching.

I then give them 15 to 20 minutes worth of practice questions focused on that topic. For example in my revision lesson on compound measures they completed these density questions. The questions by topic from JustMaths are particularly useful.

I think this lesson format is working well. Now I've established a set structure, these lessons are pretty quick to plan. My students get through a lot of revision in each lesson, and I feel that we're revising all the high priority topics in sufficient detail. There are no gimmicks. Importantly, I'm addressing common misconceptions and reminding students of key facts and procedures.

I occasionally do a Churchill Paper lesson too, though the majority of practice papers are done at home and in Papers Society. Churchill papers are quite challenging. Next week I intend to start quizzing my class on facts and formulae. But most of my lessons will continue to follow the format described above.

Three weeks and counting until the first GCSE exam!

Maths Exam Meme Posters from Paul Collins

24 April 2017

Gem Awards 2017

This week it's the third anniversary of resourceaholic.com. It's become a tradition for me to mark the anniversary of my blog by publishing an annual 'Gem Awards' post. Here I look back at all the ideas I've shared in my gems posts over the last year and choose some of my favourites.

1. CPD Award
This award goes to Craig Barton, whose brilliant podcasts have been a very welcome addition to the world of maths education over the last year. In his epic podcasts, Craig talks to a wide range of people about teaching maths, from classroom teachers to world famous education experts. Every episode gives us lots to think about.
Special mention to La Salle Education for continuing to run affordable, accessible, high quality conferences all year round. I really love their conferences and am very grateful for everything they contribute to the development of the maths teaching community.

2. Best New Resources
The winner of this award is @taylorda01 who has produced a large collection of incredibly useful 'Increasingly Difficult Questions'. I first featured these in Gems 59 and have since added all the links to my resource libraries. These well written questions are easy to use, printing nicely onto A5, and come with answers.
Special mention to Edexcel who really came to our rescue for some new GCSE topics with their set of supporting resources, as featured in Gems 64.

I should also mention my all time favourite resource makers Don Steward and MathsPad, who have continued to produce brilliant resources all year round.

3. Subject Knowledge Award
I think that one of the most important things a maths teacher can do is continually enhance their subject knowledge, no matter how experienced they are. This award goes to teacher trainer Ed Southall, who is leading the way on developing maths teacher subject knowledge. His recently published book 'Yes, But Why? Teaching for Understanding in Mathematics' has had unprecedented sales and rave reviews. I wrote a full review of it here. Ed frequently delivers subject knowledge presentations at conferences and has also recently started making videos which are well worth a look.

4. Best TES Resource Author
This award goes to Dan Walker, maker of outstanding resources for Key Stage 3 to 5. I wrote all about his resources in this post so do have a read to see lots of wonderful examples.

5. Best New Website
This award goes to Clarissa Grandi - the artiest maths teacher I know. I wrote about her beautiful website artfulmaths.com in Gems 57. It features classroom displays, creative lesson ideas and extra-curricular activities.

Special mention to Darren Carter for his website mrcartermaths.com. It is super slick and easy to navigate, instantly providing questions and answers for busy maths teachers. And because the answers are so accessible, it's a good revision tool for students to use at home too.

6. Best Video
This award goes to the 'Why the Metric System Matters' video that I featured in Gems 60. I showed it to my Year 7 class and they had a million questions about units afterwards! I'd never seen them so interested in anything before.

Special mention to 3Blue1Brown for their excellent range of videos, including the vectors video that I enjoyed sharing with my Year 13s.

7. Best Problems
This award goes to Underground Mathematics for continuing to expand their collection of excellent A level problems.

I should also mention brilliant.org, who won my Best Problems Award in the Gem Awards 2015. I still enjoy following their Facebook posts - many of their problems are suitable for my students.

8. Best Teacher Support
The White Rose Maths Hub definitely deserves an award for the huge amount of support that they offer to schools all over the country. Their schemes of work for both primary and secondary schools are really useful. Their assessments are also excellent, and they have recently launched a collection of multiple choice questions on one of my favourite websites - diagnosticquestions.com. These questions are aimed at primary schools but I regularly use them with my Year 7s.
Special mention goes to the Mathematical Association - their Twitter account is an absolute 'must follow' for maths teachers, keeping us all up-to-date on news and developments in maths education.

9. Best Interactive Tool
This award goes to MathsPad for their excellent exterior angles tool. MathsPad has a great range of quality interactive tools for demonstrating concepts.

Special mention to the zoomable number line on mathsisfun.com - my Year 7s were genuinely excited when I used it in a place value lesson.

10. Lifetime Achievement
John Corbett is definitely too young to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award! But I'm giving him one anyway. His awesome website corbettmaths.com continues to go from strength to strength. I regularly use his textbook exercises and send my students links to his videos. I'm using his Higher and Higher Plus 5-a-day in all of my Year 11 revision lessons. His lovely revision cards have been very popular too. I wrote more about corbettmaths.com in this post. Thank you John - you're amazing!

That's it for the 2017 Gem Awards! What a fantastic collection of ideas and resources. Thank you to everyone who tweets about what they've tried in their classroom. It's so inspirational. If you want to read more Maths Gems, there's an index here. For highlights, check out Gem Awards 2016 and Gem Awards 2015 too.

Finally, while we're on the subject of awards, I'd like to say an enormous thank you to all of my readers for their ongoing support. I'm incredibly pleased to say that I won the Individual Education category at the UK Blog Awards 2017. I think this may be one of my greatest achievements ever, and I couldn't be more happy. I'm truly grateful to all my readers.