29 January 2023

5 Maths Gems #166

Welcome to my 166th gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. Mixed Interwoven Revision Tasks
@nathanday314 shared a set of interwoven revision tasks aimed at Year 11. These excellent tasks are editable and suitable for projecting on the screen. 

2. Completion Tables
@studymaths did a conference presentation on completion tables or 'fill in the blanks' activities. I've always been a big fan of this task format which features so much opportunity for challenge and reasoning. There are loads of lovely examples on @studymaths' Twitter feed. Here are a couple that I particularly like. First, one on standard form.

And second, one on functions - the idea for this one came from @PaulRodrigo2718.

3. Sparx Workbooks
Sparx Maths has shared a free set of Crossover Workbooks - these might be helpful for GCSE revision or intervention sessions.

Speaking of intervention, I've recently started running a Year 11 maths intervention in tutor time and I wrote a thread about how I'm structuring it. It includes a link to the diagnostic test that I used at the start of the intervention.

4. Formula Sheet Tasks

This year our students will receive formula sheets in their GCSE, and we need to make sure they know how to use them effectively. It's possible that they will forget they have this sheet in the exam because they're not used to using one. I've previously blogged about resources that students can use to practise using the formula sheet, including these 'Assessment Aid Tests' from @taylorda01 and these formula sheet tasks and PowerPoints from @Just_Maths. Thanks to @colleenyoung for drawing my attention to another resource: formula sheet tests from OCR. These are useful no matter what awarding body you use. OCR has also published some formula sheet top tips

5. Problem Solving Techniques
Thanks to @SarahFarrellKS2 for sharing a blog post about supporting students with problem solving techniques. This is aimed at primary teachers but there's lots of sensible advice for everyone. It features resources for teachers and maths leads to use. 

There are two things you only have one more day to do: 
  • Book a place at the Joint Conference of Mathematics Subject Associations and receive the early bird discount. This takes place at Warwick University in the Easter holidays. I've booked my place! I'm really looking forward to it.
  • Apply for the Key Stage 5 Maths Coordinator Role at my school which is a fantastic opportunity to be involved in the launch of a new Sixth Form. Alternatively, if you want to teach A level at my school but you don't fancy the TLR, please get in touch.

Here are some things you might have missed:

Yesterday, Craig Barton and I spent the day at a recording studio working on a project with AQA. Watch this space!

Finally, I'll leave you with this 'Spicy Question' from @1stclassmaths. You can find more spicy questions here - there's lots of great challenge for your students in these questions. 

8 January 2023

Tips for Teachers

Exciting news! Craig Barton has a new book out: Tips for Teachers. If you're a maths teacher who reads my blog then I'll be surprised if you haven't read at least one of Craig's other books, so I don't need to tell you how utterly engaging his style of writing is. You already know that this book will be a thoroughly enjoyable read, packed full of sensible and practical teaching ideas. It's classic Craig.

In this book Craig takes things that many experienced teachers already do, and tells us how to do them considerably better. And for people new to teaching, highly effective classroom practices are broken down and explained in such a way that they are super easy to implement for the first time.

For example, Craig tells us how to Cold Call, how to use mini-whiteboards, how to do exit tickets and what to do if a student says 'I don't know'. He tells us what we're doing wrong and how to get better. I've been teaching a long time now, but when I read this book it made me acutely aware that I can improve in a number of areas. All teachers can always improve. It forced me to reflect on my embedded routines and wonder if a few tweaks here and there might benefit my students.

My favourite bits of advice are those regarding questioning and checking for understanding. I thought I was pretty good at questioning until I read these sections! In Craig's advice on improving Cold Calling, he gives detailed explanations and advice on:

1. Telling students why you're doing Cold Call
2. Asking the question, then saying the name
3. Giving adequate wait time before taking the answer
4. Asking students to respond using full sentences
5. Giving adequate wait time after hearing the response
6. Managing your tell
7. Promoting active listening

This takes the reader from this starting point (i.e. not very good use of Cold Call):

Teacher: Harry, can you tell me Pythagoras' Theorem?
Harry: c2 = a2 + b2
Teacher: Fantastic. Okay, next question...

right through to this:

Teacher: Okay, no shouting out, everyone silent thinking (wait)...  What is Pythagoras' Thereom?... (wait) ... Harry?
Harry: c2 = a2 + b2
Teacher: Full sentence please...
Harry: Pythagoras' Theorem is c2 = a2 + b2
Teacher: (wait) Thank you, Harry. Kyle, what do you think of what Harry just said?

There are further examples, including those that show a sequence of Cold Calls. 

What I like about Craig's books is that he explains things incredibly well, because he's an outstanding teacher himself. He practises what he preaches - his book is full of very clear modelling, making it easy for teachers to learn techniques and apply them in their own classroom.

In terms of checking for understanding and addressing misconceptions - something that is vitally important in the maths classroom but maths teachers often struggle with - I love Tom Sherrington's '8 out of 10' tip on Page 189 (read the book for more on this!).

Rounding Up
The other section that really struck a chord with me is about 'Rounding Up'. 

Rounding up, as it's described by Doug Lemov, is when a teacher responds to a partially or nearly correct answer by affirming it and adding critical detail to make the answer fully correct. Like this: 

Teacher: What is a good first step when trying to solve 6x + 5 = 29... Molly?
Molly: You move the add 5 to the other side, and it becomes a takeaway 5.
Teacher: Nice! So you are saying subtract 5 from both sides of the equation, because subtracting 5 is the inverse operation of adding 5.

I do this all the time, and I kind of feel like it's important to do it to ensure my students are always exposed to clear and correct explanations. But this book made me question my thinking on this.

Craig explains why we shouldn't round up, and gives examples of more effective exchanges between student and teacher. Since I read this, I've been working on improving my questioning and cutting down the frequency of my 'rounding up'.


Just like Craig's other books, Tips for Teachers is incredibly useful for both new and experienced teachers. If you're a reflective practitioner who is always striving to improve, then read it - I think you'll be surprised by the sheer volume of good ideas. 

This excellent book again shows us that Craig Barton is one of the UK's leading experts in teacher development.

31 December 2022

5 Maths Gems #165

Welcome to my 165th gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. GCSE Revision
On The House Maths (@OTHMaths) shared a new set of GCSE revision resources. Their 'Aim for' revision grids are designed for both Higher and Foundation tiers.

I have added these to my GCSE Revision Resources page.

2. GCSE Further Maths
Thank you to @1stclassmaths who has now completed the Level 2 Further Maths page of his excellent website. The page features videos and topic booklets for all Further Maths topics beyond the regular GCSE specification. These are really high quality resources - I've been using them with my Further Maths class.

3. New Resources and Websites
Thanks again to @draustinmaths for continuing to generously share her resources. Her latest batch of functions resources were really helpful for my Year 11s in December. There are some great tasks on composite and inverse functions. 

@ChrisMcGrane84 shared a practice task on finding where lines and quadratics intersect the x and y axes

@markywillis63 has updated his A level website. Each topic now has a set of questions with gaps for students to fill in whilst either trying the questions or watching the videos. 

I was emailed by maths teacher Robyn who told me about the website physicsclassroom.com which is helpful for A level mechanics teachers. They have printable worksheets, online concept checkers, interactive tools, videos with questions and so on. One example is a self checking quiz about free body diagrams, with an accompanying video and a worksheet.

I also received an email from Sam Kordan who created a website with a colleague when they worked together at a SEND school: www.adamupmaths.com. It's a collection of songs, games, printable teaching models and more.

My readers will be pleased to hear that onmaths.com has started doing A level papers, and that gcsemathsquestions.co.uk has been updated with questions from November 2021. 

Thank you to all these generous maths teachers who have been working hard to create and share content in recent months.

4. Infinite Whiteboard
I've blogged before about the fantastic tools shared by @JakeGMaths at mathsuniverse.com. This includes a huge collection of worked examples and a skills grid generator. Jake has recently been working on his Infinity Whiteboard which is fantastic. You can paste an image of a task or student's work and then annotate it. It's also really easy to paste a PDF which comes up as an image. It's great for live modelling and you'll never run out of space! One thing I'll use it for is to review exam papers - it takes seconds to set up:

Previously we've copied and pasted every question into PowerPoint to review an exam paper, which I now realise wasn't a good use of our time!

The infinite whiteboard is incredibly easy to use. Do check it out.

5. All Ten
In the run up to Christmas I massively enjoyed completing the nerdle advent calendar. I've completed a nerdle puzzle every single day since February. It brings a little bit of joy to my mornings. When I recently tweeted to sing nerdle's praises, I had a reply from @druinok about All Ten which I hadn't seen before.

All Ten is a lovely game which gives your four different numbers every day, and you have to use those four numbers to make each number from one to ten. The interface is great - it's very engaging and easy to use. As well as being an enjoyable game for teachers (I now do it every morning, as soon as I've completed my daily nerdle!) it's also a good one to use in lessons - particularly when teaching the order of operations.

It reminds me a bit of the classic 24 Game.

I've been super quiet on Twitter and my blog lately because, like so many others, I've been really unwell. But, just in time for the start of term, I'm starting to feel better now, and am looking forward to an exciting term ahead. At school we'll be running the Intermediate Maths Challenge, plus we're taking forty Year 10 students on a trip to see GCSE Maths in Action - and I'm delighted to have this trip funded by a grant from Jack Petchey

I'm looking forward to the conferences that are coming up. At La Salle's conference in Bracknell on 11th March I'll be speaking about Pythagoras. And at the Joint Conference of the Maths Subject Associations I'll be speaking about improving students' calculator fluency. This two day conference takes place at the University of Warwick on 3 and 4 April - I've you've not been to one of the residential Easter conferences before, I strongly encourage you to come along! Book by 31 January to receive the Early Bird discount.

My lovely team will be recruiting this term - we need a Key Stage 5 Coordinator to run A level maths, which we're launching for the first time this year. If you have A level teaching experience and you're looking for a new challenge in September, please contact me (resourceaholic@gmail.com). The job advert will be out soon.

I enjoyed attending Dr Frost's triannual drinks this week. It's always a pleasure to spend time with maths teachers.

Finally, check out my fantastic stickers! I searched high and low for some nice personalised stickers to buy my colleagues for Christmas - and when I found these, I bought some for myself too!

Happy New Year, and all the best for 2023.

13 November 2022

5 Maths Gems #164

Welcome to my 164th gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. Worked Examples
@JakeGMaths shared a large bank of worked examples. It's free to use and contains over 400 examples. Each one is several slides long, guiding students through a method in a series of steps. Then there's a printable part for the students to complete, then the solutions. The PowerPoint has clear instructions on how to use these resources in lessons. Here are a couple of examples of the student tasks:

If you haven't yet read it, I recommend Michael Perhan's excellent book Teaching Math with Examples which inspired this work.

Also check out Jake's other projects which I blogged about in Gems 158.

2. Operations with Negative Indices
I really like this set of questions from @karenshancock. It's a good idea to do something a bit different with negative indices, to help develop fluency whilst interleaving other skills like fraction arithmetic.

Karen kindly typed this up and shared an editable version here. I've added this to my resource library under indices. 

3. Gif Generator
@PiXLMattTheApp continues to develop his website with an incredible range of features. His latest addition is a gif creator which allows teachers to very easily create a recording of a modelled example.

I wrote about opportunities to use animated modelling in my post The Power of Modelling and Exemplars.

4. Bearings
Thanks to @DrPMaths for sharing a task linking angles in triangles with bearings. This is a building block which prepares students to be able to answer trigonometry problems with bearings - something that students often struggle with. His resource includes a few example-problem pairs and a set of practice questions with solutions.

5. Starting Point Maths
@ChrisMcGrane84 has published loads of excellent new resources on startingpointsmaths.com recently. I featured some in my last gems post, and here are a few more. 

First, a task to try before learning how to differentiate: Developing Indices Skills for Calculus.

Second, a task which has a mix of linear equations, quadratic equations, equations which look quadratic but are linear, and a sneaky cubic. Mixed Linear and Quadratic Equations is all about strategy selection, so students become better at spotting quadratics.

And finally, Odd & Even Numbers – Additive Structure - a lovely task which might be useful in primary or secondary. Read Chris's description of the task to see how he used it.

At school we've all been unwell lately - it's that time of year - and our Year 11s have been in mocks so we've been doing lots of invigilation, which is pretty dull. On a more positive note, I've been teaching some of my favourite topics: Year 7 have been learning about prime numbers which is always a joy, Year 8 have been solving equations, and Year 10 have been doing quadratics.   

I'm delighted that #mathsTLP made a return last Sunday. It was an absolute pleasure to behold an hour of teachers enthusiastically sharing resources and teaching ideas. Don't forget that this now runs every Sunday at 7pm, hosted by @MissNorledge and @BrookeEHunter. You're very welcome to join in: see my blog post about how to get involved.

Here are some things you might have missed:
  • The MA is calling for submissions to lead a session at the joint subject associations conference next Easter. This two day conference at Warwick University will be the highlight of the year for maths teachers. If you're an experienced teacher with something to share, please do consider speaking. I particularly encourage female speakers, who are always underrepresented at maths education conferences. Complete this form by the end of November to offer a session.
  • Realising my Equating Coefficients in Identities task ramped up in difficulty too quickly, I made a revised version of this resource which is shared on TES. 
  • @MrDraperMaths wrote an excellent post about transformations of functions which featured a really interesting approach that had never occurred to me before.
  • @sxpmaths shared an excellent summary of the different sampling techniques covered in A level maths.
  • @missradders shared a lovely Teacher Treasure Hunt that could be used during Maths Week.
  • Everyone loves the classic Standards Unit resources from the legend Malcom Swan. The 'Traffic' program was originally written in Java as part of the Standards Unit but @MathsTechnology has recreated it in GeoGebra.
  • @nathanday314 shared some of his excellent starter activities plus a thread that explains how he uses them. The thread is well worth a read. 
  • @draustinmaths continued to add new resources to draustinmaths.com, including this new task on forming quadratics which I've added to my resource library.
  • The wonderful mathematical magazine Chalkdust published Issue 16 - you can read it online or order a paper copy.
  • Did you catch my recent blog posts? I wrote a methods post called 'Easy Multiples' and I wrote 'Some Things We've Tried' where I described some of the things I've been up to at school since I became Head of Maths. 
  • La Salle shared the dates and locations of its next three in-person conferences:

I'll leave you with this tweet from @dodecahedra about different ways to prove the sum of a geometric series. I'd only ever thought about one way of doing this before, so I enjoyed seeing the alternatives.


30 October 2022

#MathsTLP Relaunch!

Back in the day, Ed Southall and I used to run a weekly Twitter chat called #mathsTLP (TLP stood for Twitter Lesson Planning). We launched it in March 2015 with a simple aim: to support maths teachers who were planning lessons. We would happily answer any question, but the main focus would be on finding suitable resources for upcoming topics. We mainly aimed to support new or non-specialist teachers, but everyone was welcome to join in. Ed and I would offer our own advice and suggestions, and other teachers would offer ideas too. So basically it was teachers helping teachers. 
Here are some examples of previous #mathstlp questions so you get an idea of what it looks like in practice:

#mathstlp was a considered a big success by the teachers who regularly got involved. And sometimes it reached beyond the chat participants - for example I summed up the discussion we had about teaching Foundation GCSE classes in this blog post which has since been read by over fourteen thousand teachers seeking the same advice.

I've been looking back through the #mathsTLP threads from 2015 - they show that some things have changed in the last seven years. These days there's a lot of love for rich tasks, intelligent practice and clever interweaving. Preferences and styles were a bit different back then, with lots of requests for games and 'fun' stuff. Either way, #mathsTLP will be as helpful now as it was back then.

Now - drumroll please. Here's the exciting news: 

#mathsTLP is officially back!

It will be run by the brilliant new co-hosts Christine (@MissNorledge) and Brooke (@BrookeEHunter), starting at 7pm on Sunday 6th November.

Join in or just watch it all unfold. You can read the tweets without any obligation to tweet yourself. But if you want to join in (we hope lots of you do!), just make sure you include #mathstlp in your tweets so that Christine or Brooke spot them in the feed and make sure they get a response. You are invited to either ask a question yourself or offer an idea in response to someone else's question.

One thing to be aware of: if your account is protected (you have a little picture of a padlock by your Twitter handle) then remember that no one can see your tweets unless they follow you! And even if they follow you, they will not be able to retweet you. So if you want to take part in a Twitter chat then please unprotect your account first.


We're all working towards a common goal so let's help each other out. Please join in on Sunday 6th November to make #mathsTLP a success.

28 October 2022

Easy Multiples

In 2018 I decided to write a series of short posts about approaches or methods that teachers might not have seen before. When I share these posts, I am well aware that there will be many people who already know the thing I'm blogging about, but I figured that it's still worth sharing even if it's only new to a handful of people. My first post in this series was about using vectors for enlargements and my second post was about factorising by inspection. I then got really busy writing my book, and didn't add to this blog post series for four years! Oops. So today I'm relaunching the series with a very simple little 'trick' (not a trick at all, just maths).

My Year 6 daughter has recently learnt long division. To be clear on what I'm referring to, long division looks like this:

Whereas 'short division' looks like this (this is sometimes colloquially referred to as a 'bus stop method'):

The only difference between the two methods is that in short division we work out the remainders in our head and jot them down in the dividend, but in long division we work out the remainders on paper in a more structured format. If your divisor is greater than twelve (for example if you're dividing by 28) then it might be tricky to work out remainders in your head, so that's typically when the long division format might be preferred. But they're essentially the same method, just with a slightly different structure for processing the calculations.

It was funny to see my daughter learning long division as it's something that I literally never teach in secondary school. I was pleased with myself for remembering how it works. For many students it exists in Year 6 alone, never to be seen again. A typical Key Stage 2 SATs question might look like this:

But something like this is highly unlikely to come up at GCSE. Students do sometimes have to do divisions by hand in their non-calculator GCSE exam (an example is shown below, from the Foundation tier), but I think most students would choose to use short division.

Some people argue that the long division algorithm is used again when students learn algebraic division in Year 12. This may have been the case ten years ago, but I think that most(?) A level teachers now prefer more intuitive methods of polynomial division, like the factor method shown below for example. 

So for the most part, long division resides solely in Year 6. And my daughter, who is in the 'middle' group for maths, was coping fine with it, but she told me that she finds it tricky to write out the multiples at the start. For example when she's dividing by 28, she's been told to begin by writing out some multiples of 28. She finds this time-consuming, a bit tricky, and rather dull.

But don't worry, because there's a really simple way to write out the multiples of 28. My colleague Sian showed me this - she picked it up a few years ago from her daughter's Year 6 teacher. I showed my daughter, who loved it - she was then able to master long division as she'd found a way round the tricky bit.

To quickly and easily write out the multiples of 28, just write the multiples of 20 and the multiples of 8 and add them together:

As long as the child knows their standard times tables fairly well, listing the two sets of multiples is straightforward. And the addition is pretty straightforward too, as they are always adding to a multiple of ten.

Here's another example: multiples of 17.

This may already be really widely used by Year 6 teachers. But in case anyone hadn't thought about this super simple way of listing multiples, I thought it worth sharing here. As I've always said, even if it just helps one person then it's worth taking the time to write about it.

24 October 2022

Some Things We've Tried

In my last blog post I said I'd write something about the stuff I've been doing in my new job. I've been a Head of Maths before - in a truly excellent maths department - but that role was only maternity cover. I've also (briefly) been a consultant, advising Heads of Maths in various schools. But this Head of Maths job is different. This time I have lots of opportunities to do new and creative things.

My school opened four years ago and has added a new year group every year, so we now have our first Year 11 cohort. This is a really important year for us - we're likely to have our first Ofsted inspection, and we're also going to have our first ever GCSE results next summer. I'm confident we'll do well on both counts. Next month we'll also be running our first ever Sixth Form Open Evening and setting up our A level structures and curricula, ready for the opening of our new Sixth Form next September. Starting A level provision from scratch is something none of us have done before, in fact only a few teachers in the school have experience of teaching A level, so this is a really exciting challenge.

I'm very lucky that I have a fantastic maths department (twelve excellent maths teachers and still growing). I'm hoping to advertise for a Key Stage 5 Coordinator to join my team next September (if you're interested, get in touch!).

I've spent the last three years putting my heart and soul into building this school as a member of the senior leadership team, and I've made the decision that it's the best place for my own daughter to attend from next September. I care deeply about ensuring that the school is highly successful, and a brilliant maths department is a vital component of that success.

There are a lot of Heads of Maths who have been doing the job for decades and are much better placed than me to give advice on 'how to be a Head of Maths'. So I won't do that. But I will share a few things I've done during my first seven weeks in the role, because for a long time now I've been a huge advocate of teachers sharing practice with other schools. I wrote a similar post 'Some Things I've Tried' exactly seven years ago today. When you read the ideas below, it may be that you already do all of this at your school, or perhaps you don't want to do any of this. But even if just one school borrows one idea from this post then I think it's worth me taking the time to share it.

1. Papers Society
I first launched Papers Society six years ago when I was an LP at another school. It's a simple idea - motivate students to do more exam preparation by providing printed past papers, a place to revise, and snacks... I explained the rationale in this blog post. I used to have around twenty Year 11 students attend between February and May and I thought it was hugely successful. When I launched it at my current school - in the second week of September - I had over thirty students turn up in the first week alone. I quickly realised I wouldn't be able to run it in my classroom, so the next week we relocated to the canteen. I now have between 70 and 90 students attending every week, and this is likely to grow. My team of Year 11 teachers circulate to help while students complete GCSE papers. Students attend from every maths class - both Higher and Foundation tier. 

So every Thursday after school, almost half of Year 11 come to the canteen to eat and chat and do maths papers together. Amazing. If they continue to come every week until June, they will have done at least thirty extra GCSE practice papers by the time they sit their final exams. 

Moving Papers Society to the canteen had a few unexpected benefits. Because there's loads of space, students who want to chat and help each other are welcome to, while students who want to work independently can sit at a table at the quieter end of the canteen. The other benefit is visibility: students in other year groups can see what we're doing because we're not hidden away on the maths corridor. Year 7s to Year 10s tell us they want to join in: they are keen to sit down with their friends and do some maths while they eat biscuits! Seeing Year 11s working hard, and happy to spend their spare time doing maths, is very positive for the culture of the school.

Article from our school newsletter

2. Support
Most schools run some kind of drop-in maths support. At my school we only introduced a maths clinic for the first time last year and it was a slow start - some weeks we only had one or two students attend. This year we re-launched it with a lot of publicity, and it seems to be going well so far. It takes place in my classroom every Tuesday lunchtime - this is the day I'm not on lunch duty, which means I'm able to run clinic for the whole of lunch. I've drawn up a rota so the other maths teachers take turns supporting me. Most students who attend bring their exercise book and ask for further explanation and practice on something they struggled with in class. My classroom has a large stock of textbooks - we don't use them in lessons but they are very helpful for providing extra practice in clinic. 

We've had a good number of Year 10 and 11 students attending clinic so far, but it's open to all year groups and we've barely had any attendance from Key Stage 3 students. I have a feeling that the presence of the older students might put younger students off. Also, a number of students from my Year 11 Certificate in Further Maths class have been attending to practise their Further Maths - this is great, but I know the presence of the best mathematicians in the school is putting off some of our Foundation tier Year 11 students. So to increase attendance across all year groups, I think we need three separate lunchtime clinics: one for Higher GCSE, one for Foundation GCSE, and one for Key Stage 3. And next year, I will need one for A level too. I just want to make sure everyone feels comfortable coming along to ask for help, and that anyone who attends a clinic gets plenty of one-to-one support while they're there. But I just can't staff all these lunchtime clinics. I do a lot of lunchtime duties so I don't have capacity to run more clinics myself, and my busy team need the opportunity to rest and eat between their Period 4 lesson and tutor time. 

So in summary - clinic is going well, I just wish I had the capacity to expand our provision.

3. Communication
One of the first things I did in September was write to all parents to introduce myself and provide information about maths at my school. This is partly a workload-saving move for me (so I don't spend all year answering the same queries from parents). I also did it because I think transparency and clear communication are vital for good relationships with parents. It helps me get parents on board so we can work together to support their child's maths education. We all know that parental engagement is incredibly important in maths, and even if just 1% of parents read my letter, it was worth sending. It was nice that some parents got in touch afterwards to say they found it helpful. If you want to see what I wrote, here's my Key Stage 3 letter and here's my Key Stage 4 letter.

I also put a lot of thought into how I communicate with my team. We don't have a department meeting every week so I send a weekly email to all maths teachers on a Monday morning with a quick summary of all the key things happening that week. I praise them regularly - if a member of senior leadership says something positive about maths, I pass it on to everyone on the team. And when I do get to host a department meeting - around three times in every half-term - I try to limit it to ten minutes of information and admin, with the rest of the meeting focused on developing the team. For example my next meeting comes just before Year 11 mocks so I will talk about revision strategies and I'll deliver some GCSE marking CPD, drawing on @Teach_Solutions's excellent thread on this. The subsequent department meeting will take place just before our Year 11 higher classes cover circle theorems and functions. As most of my team have never taught these topics, it's a great opportunity for me to run some topic-specific CPD.

The final point I want to make on communication regards the consistency of the messages our students receive in lessons. If there's something I want all teachers to tell their students, I create a slide containing that information, to ensure that every student is told the same thing. For example: I wanted all Year 11 teachers to issue a pack of practice papers for students to complete over October half-term. So to reduce workload for my Year 11 teachers and to ensure consistency of experience for students, I printed all the packs for my team and provided a slide to show in class. 

Another example: we use warm-up booklets in my department (a measure introduced for practical reasons during Covid but retained and developed because we love it) - so at the start of the year I provided a slide that teachers could show their classes on how to use warm-up booklets. I didn't mandate the use of this particular slide, but it's there if they want it, and it saves them the workload of making something themselves.

4. Enrichment
We started doing UKMT challenges a couple of years ago so this is now becoming well-established. I've always been adamant that 'being in top set' shouldn't win you certain privileges, as maths enrichment should be available to all. Many schools just enter their top sets into UKMT challenges, but we offer everyone the opportunity - it's totally voluntary. This year we've had 88 students sign up to do the IMC and 130 sign up to do the JMC. So that's around 20% of our students, which I think represents a good amount of interest in doing 'extra' maths. However, maths enrichment shouldn't be exclusively 'opt-in', as then you don't reach the students who love maths but don't realise they love maths! So we will run a Maths Week in May during which every child will benefit from extra-curricular maths enrichment in some form.

One thing I hope to do this year is take a group of Year 10s to see the GCSE Maths in Action lectures. I've only been once before, many years ago, but found them hugely inspiring, both for the students attending and also the teachers. I'm eagerly awaiting the trip's approval so I can make a booking. We'll probably offer the trip to the Year 10 students who signed up to do the Intermediate Maths Challenge.

One of my biggest personal challenges this year was being asked to create a short maths-focused literacy activity for our Year 11 students. This initiative is called 'Reading Scholars': every other week, Year 11s are given subject-specific reading to discuss in tutor time. This is a great idea to get students reading something beyond the curriculum that will challenge and engage them. I love any opportunity to get students doing some maths enrichment, so it was nice to be asked to make something for their tutor time. There are already loads of fantastic reading exercises for maths such as these lovely Guided Reading tasks from @JennyHillParker, these Reading Resources from vickyolive on TES, and an excellent set of Guided Reading resources shared by Nicola Whiston on TES. But I needed something a bit longer with a reading age of around sixteen, plus I'd been given a specific structure for the questions I had to write, so I was unable to use these resources. I found lots of great articles from NRICH and Plus Magazine, but most were a bit too long, so in the end I went for this engaging article "There are a zillion different names for big numbers" (from a slightly unusual source, but a good read!), and created the prompts below (the format of the slide is standard for all of our Year 11 Reading Scholar activities).

I think I'll be asked to create more of these reading tasks later in the year, and I have a few ideas: perhaps this piece on Women in Maths or an article about the work of a Fields Medal winner: Maryna Viazovska or James Maynard. If you can think of anything else that might work well, please let me know! I very much enjoyed this challenge - writing comprehension tasks is not something I've done before, so it was good to give me something that got me thinking!


I'm very proud of my excellent team of maths teachers and I think we have really strong systems in place in the department, particularly the way we assess (I've spoken about assessment many times before so I haven't included it in this post!). I have lots of ideas for the department going forward and am excited about the journey ahead. You may already do everything I've written about in this post, but if not then I hope you found something helpful here. I might blog again next term about some other things we're trying. In the meantime, I would love it if other maths teachers would share some of the stuff that their department does. I'm always keen to learn from others.