26 September 2015

A Level Resources

At #mathsconf5 I delivered a workshop entitled 'Resources for Teaching Maths at AS Level'. I thought it might be helpful to share highlights from that presentation here. I'm going to split my ideas into two separate posts - in today's post I'll list recommended sources of A level resources. In my next post I'll discuss some ideas on how to structure A level lessons, how to use resources and how to organise and share resources.

Here's the slides and handout from my conference session.

My Top 10
In my workshop I talked through my favourite sources of A level resources. I narrowed it down to ten, but there were many more I wanted to include.

1. Solomon Worksheets
I tend to use extracts from Solomon worksheets for starters, plenaries or extension work. For example, if I've taught quadratic inequalities then the question below makes a nice starter question in the next lesson:
Solomon worksheets come with very clear worked solutions so you could also give these worksheets to students for independent practice at home. It's not helpful when teachers tell their students to do ongoing independent study but don't provide (or point them in the direction of) suitable practice questions.

You probably have these worksheets on your network at school, if not then they can be purchased here.

2. Activities from Susan Wall
Susan Wall is considered the queen of rich tasks at A Level. Some of her resources are on Integral, which I'll talk about in a minute - but another good way to find her material is to search for 'Susan Wall' in the National STEM Centre eLibrary.

Have a go at the question below. It may only take you a minute, but it's an excellent question for students who find this notation tricky (plus anything that involves graph sketching is worthwhile).

I also love Susan Wall's integration activity below. Again, this is great for getting students to think rather than just follow procedures.

3. Integral
Every school should have a subscription to integralmaths.org. Provided by the MEI and FMSP, it's an extensive collection of notes, activities, worksheets and assessments for every A level module and exam board. The indices maze below is just one example of MEI/FMSP material - there's a huge variety of resources on Integral so it's worth spending a day in the holidays exploring.

This guide provides detailed information about the content of Integral. Another example of an Integral activity is shown below. I love this activity!
4. TES - SRWhitehouse
There's loads of A level resources on TES - my favourite contributor is Susan Whitehouse. I use her resources in almost every lesson. I find her materials particularly useful when teaching C3 and C4 - you'll find lots of links to these in my A2 resources library.

Her indices activity (extract below) is excellent. I expect that most people use this when teaching indices at A level or GCSE, but it also makes a helpful starter in a lesson on differentiating expressions with negative and fractions indices. Question 6 and 7 below often cause confusion for students - they want to write both as 2x-3.
The logs activity shown below is another example of a Susan Whitehouse activity that I use regularly.
5. Teachit Maths
Teachit Maths is a great website for Key Stage 3 and GCSE. PDF resources are available for free. Their collection of Key Stage 5 resources is growing. I don't often use card-based activities but I do like their log dominoes. I've used them before and they worked well.
I like this Pairs of Lines activity too - it would work in both a Higher GCSE lesson and in an AS coordinate geometry lesson.
6. Mathematics Assessment Project
The materials of the Mathematics Assessment Project (which is part of Shell Centre) remind me of the Standards Unit materials (more on that in a minute). They provide well-designed tasks for formative and summative assessment. Although these materials are designed for the US curriculum, there's plenty of excellent resources for Key Stage 3, 4 and 5. There's two lessons that I particularly like: Sorting Equations of Circles 1 and Sorting Equations of Circles 2. I often use the 'Going round in circles' poster task (solution shown below). I use this when I've just taught students the equation of a circle - instead of giving them a textbook exercise, I give them this grid on A3 paper. Working in pairs, they have to place various equations of circles on the grid.
The second circles lesson is also full of excellent tasks - an extract is shown below.
7. CMEP
We're very lucky that the Cambridge Mathematics Enhancement Project - an initiative to develop A level resources - is currently producing loads of fantastic new material. If you want to access these resources while they're still under development then you'll need to register with CMEP (although some materials are currently available through NRICH). It won't be long though until the full collection of CMEP resources are made available to all. Some of their materials are enrichment problems for high attainers, but there's also fluency exercises and scaffolded tasks. For example I like this 'Logarithm lattice':
and this 'Integral chasing' activity:
8. Don Steward
I can't talk about resources without recommending my hero Don Steward. His blog (Median) contains rich tasks for 11 - 16 year olds, but many of his higher end GCSE resources are suitable for A level too. Topics include algebra, quadratics, trigonometry, sequences, surds, indices, cubics, graph transformations and coordinate geometry. An example is his activity 'geometric series, some with surds' which was designed for the new GCSE but is suitable for C2 (Edexcel).
I've already blogged about his 'one incorrect simplification' tasks which worked brilliantly on Year 12 induction day.
And here's another typical Don Steward task - this one is on cubics:
9. The Standards Unit
We all know and love the "Improving Learning in Mathematics" (or Standards Units) resourcesThere's a good selection for A level that are well worth exploring. In the past I've always gone straight for the resources at the back, but recently I've discovered that the lesson ideas and questioning prompts are also incredibly helpful.  Here's an example from Matching Functions and Derivatives:
10. Resourceaholic and #mathsTLP
The libraries at resourceaholic.com contain hundreds of links to hand-picked A level resources. My AS Core library is always the first place I check when planning a C1 or C2 lesson. Resources are grouped by topic. The extract below is from a 'Fun Sheet' (I can't find a copy of the original book it came from) - it's a lovely activity for simplifying simple trigonometric expressions before meeting trigonometric identities.
On my blog you'll also find lots of posts about A level teaching such as Introducing Differentiation, Algebraic Division, Radians, Logs and Factorising Harder Quadratics. I often feature A level ideas in my Gems posts too - here's one from John Smith.
Finally, #mathsTLP is every Sunday evening 7pm - 8pm. This is a Twitter chat in which lesson ideas and resources are shared. Join in to ask for help or offer ideas. This is the sort of thing you might tweet:
More sources
I used to think that there weren't many A level resources around, but it turns out there's plenty out there. Every school needs a hard working Key Stage 5 Coordinator to come into school during the holidays and spend a day or two downloading and organising resources! I'll say more about this in my next post.

There were lots of websites that I didn't mention in the list above that should definitely be on your radar. If I'd had longer than 50 minutes for my workshop, I'd have included the websites listed below (and many more!):
  • MathedUp! - lots of excellent A level links including activities, PowerPoints and videos.
  • m4ths.com - among other things, this website has a range of A level worksheets by topic. Check out this brilliant C1 and C2 Workbook.
  • Colmanweb - absolutely tonnes of excellent A level resources.
  • Maths Sandpit - posts tagged A level contain lovely lesson ideas and resources.
  • MathsPad - brilliant resources, including plenty for A level (some free, some subscription).
  • StudyWell - nicely presented past exam questions by topic, with answers.
  • TheChalkface.net - nice range of activities, investigations and presentations. 
  • Mr Barton Maths - great library of A level resources
  • RISPs - rich starting points - a collection of open-ended investigative activities

Please comment below to let me know what else you'd recommend.

I hope this post has been helpful if you're new to teaching A level or an experienced teacher looking for fresh inspiration. My next post will feature more ideas for teaching A level maths.





5 comments:

  1. Thank you for this.

    I'm interested in ideas people have for differentiating with mixed ability classes at 6th form. What strategies and resources do the readers of this blog use to support all learners beyond directing their questions to appropriate students?

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  2. I take past exam questions (MEI section B questions for example) that have multiple parts often leading the student to a final bit of work. For more able students, I remove all the "hand-holding" interim steps, and just give them the final question. For weaker students, I might add more steps. Or, I put the extra steps at the front, and students can do and get them if they need them (or I do the same with "clues" at the front of the class).

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  3. I have found 6th formers surprisingly receptive to being grouped by 'ability' (not the term I want, but it will do) at key times. For example, suppose a homework assignment reveals three/four groups: those that had no problem at all; those that made careless mistakes but understand; those that have some basic ideas but need to develop; those that don't have a clue. Although they grumble a bit and look anxious when the tables have moved from their regular positions, I group them based on their homework performance.

    The strong ones are happy to be challenged by something 'extra' - harder questions from other exam boards; from different textbooks; or problems from maths challenges/CMEP/RISPs etc. Something that takes them a lot of time and, more importantly, thought.. but that they can self-check a numerical answer at the very end.

    The ones who made careless mistakes can write correct solutions before joining the above activity. (Even if it's just a sign error, I'm a stickler for them rewriting a fully correct solution.)

    The ones with gaps in their work can typically figure things out from each other's work. Someone might not have understood Q1 but another missed something in Q2 etc. That's the only time I (personally) find peer-teaching successful. They have to spend time together and only call me over if they are all stuck on the same thing.

    Finally, the ones who really didn't get it have my more-or-less undivided attention and some more scaffolded work/questions/problems to get them up to speed.

    At the end of these kind of lessons (which happen maybe once every 2 weeks), I ask the students how they felt about it and they are all very positive.

    Another time I differentiate is with starter activities. I like to choose questions which are relevant (usually around recall of prior knowledge) to the upcoming lesson. There will be, say, 3 questions to recall knowledge and then an extra question or two which push thinking/reasoning or simply motivate the need for the technique we'll learn. It's great for the strong students to get stuck and not be helped there, while I can check everyone is confident with at least Q1-3 for example.

    There are probably more ideas to add, but I have to go and teach in a minute and put my money where my mouth is!

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  4. These comments are very helpful, thanks all!

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  5. Hello, May I also recommend GoConqr - it's a free online social learning platform with Groups for A-level students as well as Maths specific groups. The free tools include mind maps, flashcards, notes, quizzes and slides, with support for latex input. Students and teachers can create their own resources or search our library.
    We also have free mobile apps for on the go revision.
    See this slide set for advice on using GoConqr to teach Maths: https://www.goconqr.com/en-US/p/3890434
    Or this mind map on the new GCSE curriculum: https://www.goconqr.com/en-US/mind_maps/4157283

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