4 April 2020

5 Maths Gems #124

Welcome to my 124th gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

I know it's a bit weird to publish a blog post at this time, but I'm hoping it will be a welcome distraction. In this post, the first four gems are for 'normal' teaching. I want to continue to make a library of all these resources and ideas so we don't forget about them. Like last week, the final gem in this post lists some resources that have been made available specifically for school closures. I hope this is helpful.

1. Don Steward
Don Steward has produced loads of great resources in the last few weeks. His recent creations include series of tasks on percentages and powers.

Here are a few examples. The first is from 'introduction to powers (ii) 3 power line'.
And the second is from 'power spiders'.
And here's one on percentages called 'How close can you get?'.
2. Why Maths is the Best
You must watch and share this wonderful video 'Why Maths Is The Best' by @Ayliean. It will lift the spirits of any maths teacher.

3. Starting Points
Thank you to Chris McGrane (@ChrisMcGrane84) for sharing an excellent FDP task on his blog Starting Points.
Do check out Chris's blog and Twitter account to see more of his tasks. Here's a structural arithmetic task he shared this week.
4. White Rose Resources
Even if your school doesn't follow the White Rose schemes of work you can still make use of their free resources. I have borrowed many of their exemplar questions this year, and I have used their end of block assessments fairly often. If you've not seen these resources before then do have a look.
During school closures White Rose has set up a home learning section of their website which has lessons for Reception through to Year 8.  I'm finding this really useful as a parent. I have daughters in Year 1 and Year 3 so have been showing them the White Rose videos and having the complete the accompanying worksheets, which they are really enjoying. The pace and pitch is just right for my daughters. Also, I don't feel overwhelmed by the volume of content on the website - White Rose have got it exactly right.

5. School Closure Resources
At the moment there are many generous initiatives being launched to support students and teachers with learning at home. I can't list everything (and I am reluctant to duplicate work being done elsewhere), but here are a few things you might have missed:
  • The annual codebreaking competition Cipher Challenge has now launched and will run until June. Students can submit answers online. This makes a nice optional enrichment activity to suggest to students. 
  • There have been lots of websites suggested on Twitter in the last couple of weeks including a new one - mathsgrader.com. It's a bit like OnMaths in that it allows students to complete GCSE papers online.
  • Maths Genie is launching Home School Support after Easter. There will be daily videos and practice questions.
  • Times Tables Rock Stars (my daughter's favourite website!) and Numbots are offering free access to schools during school closures.
  • Puzzleoftheweek.com is not new but if you don't already use it then now might be a good time to start! It's a free international puzzle competition for schools which allows you to monitor your students' participation. 
  • Stuart from the much-loved website Exam Solutions is now is offering free lessons every morning at 10am via Live stream on Youtube.  The classes will mainly be for AS and A level students. 
  • The CGP Headstart to A-Level Maths book is currently free to download for Year 11s who are hoping to start A level maths in September.

Craig Barton has been sharing short podcasts where guests explain what they're doing during the school closures. Craig's interview with me is here. It's an hour of me explaining how I'm setting maths work, how I'm attempting to manage working from home with two young children, what it's like helping to run the key worker school, and what I think the big challenges are going forward.
One of the things I've been doing for my school is producing a weekly 'virtual school' newsletter which is helping to keep our students' spirits high and maintain a sense of community among our families. Some of you have asked me about this because your school has been considering doing something similar - you can see my newsletters here (Week 2 includes maths jokes!). I've decided to start putting a weekly maths question in this newsletter. The first one I used is shown below - this was shared on Twitter by @MrGordonMaths. My school only has Year 7 and Year 8 and this is accessible to both of those year groups.
My school has a vacancy for a maths teacher at the moment - the details and application form are here. This is a fantastic opportunity!

I'll leave you with a video and a couple of jokes to make you laugh.

'Quarantine Maths Class Disaster' was shared by @FoilArmsAndHog.

This graph has been doing the rounds on Twitter (unfortunately it has been shared without credit by so many accounts, I don't know who to give credit to here):

And finally, a joke:

Stay safe, maths teachers. x

21 March 2020

5 Maths Gems #123

Welcome to my 123rd gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

A note to parents

I'd like to say a big hello to parents who are visiting my blog looking for maths resources to use at home. Although there are plenty of resources here, really they are designed for teachers to use in lessons at school and many won't really be suitable for distance learning. 

Thankfully maths is very well equipped for learning at home - far better than most other subjects. Many schools will have already provided students with access to excellent online systems (such as Hegarty Maths, and many others). Using these systems, students are able to learn maths from videos and complete tasks online. For students without access to the internet or computers, most schools will have already provided some paper resources or textbooks. The best place to get advice on what your child should be doing at home is from your child's own school. I don't think it would be responsible of me to dish out generic advice here to children I have never met. Their teacher knows best.

If you are looking for maths resources in addition to those provided by your child's school then please visit sites like this Padlet (collated by @mrspeasemaths) for links to useful websites. I have decided not to duplicate this work here. I am very wary of overwhelming parents and children with too many website and resources. 

Finally, please see this document (collated by @MrACrampton) for links to maths documentaries that students may enjoy watching at home. Also, downloading the Sumaze apps from MEI (suitable for ages four through to adult) would be an excellent use of time.

Stay safe, and thank you for continuing to support teachers during this difficult time.

A note to teachers

I've decided to write a normal gems post as I hope it will be a welcome distraction for many of you. Plus, we will all be teaching again one day and I want to continue to make a library of all these resources and ideas so we don't forget about them.

Like you, I have had the weirdest week of my life. Next week - and for the foreseeable future - I will be in school two days a week looking after key worker and vulnerable children. The rest of the time I will be working from home (setting work for my own students, and leading on technical support, parent communications, and other bits and pieces). At the same time I will be homeschooling my five year old and eight year old. Both of their parents are key workers (my husband is frontline NHS) but we will make it work.

I work in a new school with just Year 7 and 8 students so I haven't had to handle the situation with Year 11 and 13 this week. I can not imagine how traumatic this has been for all involved, and I know that this will continue to be a very difficult time for those teachers over the coming weeks. After the immense sadness of what happened, to then be on the receiving end of threatening emails from parents and students who are not happy with their predicted grades is very distressing and my heart goes out to all of you affected.

I cannot believe how quickly life has turned upside down. Every single teacher and leader I know has acted admirably. I have never before been so proud to be a teacher.


1. Don Steward
Don Steward has shared another batch of excellent resources.

Bearings is one of my favourite topics so I'm pleased to see a set of fabulous bearings tasks. There are also new resources for fractions, rotations and directed numbers.

2. Stand-Up Maths Activities
This isn't new, but I wasn't aware of it until recently. Matt Parker regularly shares mathematical videos on his Stand-Up Maths YouTube channel. Some videos have teacher resources to accompany them - this growing collection of resources can be accessed here. It includes an explanation of one of my favourite calculator tricks...

3.      Literacy Mat
Ben Farrar (@mrfarrarmusic) made a maths literacy mat for Key Stage 3 and 4 with key terms and symbols. It folds three-way like a menu to be stuck in the front of books.  
4. Volume
Here’s a nice activity from JoAnn Sandford (@joann_sandford). To help check that her students understood volume she gave them some formulae and asked them to draw an object to match.
As a follow-up she asked them to identify the imposter from a set of sketches:

5.  Resources Made Free
Some websites have made their content free or released new content to help during this challenging time. Here are some of those websites:

  • Access to Twinkl has been made free for a month using the code UKTWINKLHELPS. It's been a while since I've looked at the secondary maths content on Twinkl and it seems to have grown considerably. In fact I used it last week when I unexpectedly found myself teaching Sets and Venns to mixed ability Year 7 and 8s. The resources I used were great. Thank you Twinkl!
  • Teachit Maths, along with all the Teachit sites, is offering free, unlimited access to all of their resources. No codes are required.
  • Sandra from MathsBox has added all of her Quick Cover resources to TES for free. These might be useful for home learning because they include both examples and tasks.
  • For puzzles and CPD, the MA is adding back copies of Symmetry Plus and Mathematical Pie to their website for use by teachers, parents or students. They'll add more issues every couple of days. 
  • MEI has made all of Integral’s AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics resources freely available. More details about this, and the other ways in which MEI is supporting teachers and students at home, are available on their website.

I think that after a while, once we've all settled into our routines of supporting students at home, this change in circumstances might be an opportunity for maths teacher CPD... If so, do check out the Topics in Depth videos made by me and Craig (more coming very soon!) plus Craig's podcast, and (if you can get one delivered...) my book A Compendium of Mathematical Methods.

Finally, if you're not on Twitter then join us! Particularly if you feel isolated, lonely or out of touch. We are a community of friendly maths teachers who will keep each other strong during these tough times. We always welcome new members. If you join, tweet me to say hello...  (but please don't protect your account because then I won't see your tweet!).

I'll leave you with this video in case you haven't seen it before - it really made me laugh. I know we face a very serious situation, but I hope you see the funny side of this...

15 March 2020

5 Maths Gems #122

Welcome to my 122nd gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers. I have an abundance of things to share at the moment - far too much to fit into one post! So expect another gems post very soon.

1. Quadrilaterals
Eddie Woo (@misterwootube) shared a task made by his friend Stuart Palmer. He strongly recommends that teachers work out their own solutions and reasons before using this with students! I love this task - I've always struggled to find good activities for this topic and this one is really interesting.
2.  New Resources
I met Tim Honeywill (@HoneywillTim) at the MEI Conference last year and suggested he join Twitter to share his lovely resources. He has very helpfully shared a lot of tasks lately so check out his feed. Here are two examples.

The first is a set of indices questions

The second is a resource that Tim made to try to explain how Venn diagrams help with HCF and LCM.

MathsPad shared their usual monthly update which is always full of excellent activities. I love MathsPad and use their activities every single day. This month one of their resources is totally free - it's a fantastic Surds and Rectangles worksheet. It covers adding surds, subtracting, multiplying (including with brackets), and rationalising the denominator. There are two levels of difficulty, and some interesting results.

3. Bearings
Thanks to Dan Draper (@MrDraperMaths) for sharing a set of bearings activities and an excellent blog post.

Also check out Dan's recent post 'Decision Making With Right-Angled Triangles'.

4. Questions for Year 13
Darren Carter (@MrCarterMaths) has started sharing sets of questions for Year 13 revision. He'll post one set every week between now and the exams. He'll provide video solutions at the end of each week. 

5. Five Minute Starters
@MathsTeacherHub has shared the five minute starters they've been using with their Year 11s for the past two years. Find them at MathsTeacherHub.com. There are over 450 Foundation, 450 Higher and 300 starters for students working at the top grades.

I had a wonderful day in Manchester for #mathsconf22 and very much enjoyed all the workshops I attended (thank you Sam Blatherwick, Dani Quinn and Craig Barton!).

Thank you to everyone who came to my workshop “Surds in Depth”. The slides are here – download them for animations and links.

The highlight of the day was getting a group photo with everyone who was wearing the Joanne dress from Popsy.

I have been having a play with some of the activities in Clarissa Grandi's lovely book Artful Maths and I will blog about it soon.

Now I work in a new school with only Year 7 and 8, I won't be making any new GCSE revision resources this year. But I made loads last year - you can find them all listed on my GCSE revision page.  I hope that Year 11 teachers find this helpful.

I'll leave you with this great problem shared by Chris Smith (@aap03102).

28 February 2020

Reflect, Expect, Check, Explain

Craig Barton’s new book Reflect, Expect, Check, Explain (#RECE…?) was published today. I'm one of the lucky few who got to read it before its release. It was an absolute honour to write the foreword.

It came as no surprise to me that Craig’s second book is just as enjoyable as his immensely popular first book. It is laugh-out-loud funny. And as a maths teacher who is never quite satisfied with her lessons, I can really relate to absolutely everything he writes about.

Having read the first book and seen Craig speak something like a million times, when he told me he was writing a new book I wondered whether I'd learn much from it. Surely by now, with all my experience in the classroom and all the CPD I go to and all the tweets and blogs and books I’ve read, surely there’s not much more to tell me about, right?

But yet, every single page of this book gave me something to think about. There is just so much that I have never even considered - in task design, in the things I say in the classroom, in the way I plan sequences of lessons, and in everything else I do. I feel like I could teach for a thousand years and I still won’t have worked it all out myself.

Craig’s new book, just like his first one, has made me think. It’s what we want students doing, and it’s what we want teachers doing.

Take Craig’s model of a learning episode for example. He explains each stage in intricate detail, leaving the reader in no doubt of how it all fits together and exactly how it can be delivered.

Nothing is assumed to be obvious here - even the introduction stage of the learning episode. Craig carefully explains what it can look like and what purpose it holds. Craig suggests that this introduction stage could feature links to the big picture, stories, hooks and etymology. But we do all of this with caution – we don’t want to overwhelm or confuse students. Craig gives us examples of the words he actually uses in each scenario. This is incredibly useful for teachers. Instead of giving us vague ideas on the kind of things we could include in our lessons, throughout the book Craig is much more direct.

Craig also tells us the point in each element of the introduction stage. I’m a big fan of talking about etymology in lessons, just because I think it’s interesting, but I’ve never thought properly about the part this plays in developing pupils’ understanding of the meaning of words. In his book, Craig explains how it all fits together and what purpose it holds. And this is just part of the introduction stage! Every stage of the learning episode is explained in detail.

Throughout the book we see numerous examples of scripts, to help teachers practise their phrasing. Here’s another snippet, to give you an idea of how this looks:

As well as loads of guidance on delivering lessons, the book also contains a huge number of tasks and resources, along with Craig’s suggestions on how to use them effectively. As ever, everything is explained with an unrivalled clarity.

In this post I've featured just a few examples of parts of the book that I really liked, but there were many more sections I could have chosen because I liked the entire book. I don’t want to spoil it for you by revealing too much though! I highly recommend you buy and digest Craig’s epic book in full. I know that a lot of maths departments set up a CPD book club based around Craig’s last book, where teachers got together in department meetings to discuss each chapter in turn. That’s a bloody brilliant idea, and a sign of a high functioning maths department. This would work equally well with Craig’s new book (and, incidentally, with my book A Compendium of Mathematical Methods...!). Isn’t it fantastic when maths teachers get together to talk about teaching maths? We really should do more of that.

You can buy Craig's book here.

22 February 2020

5 Maths Gems #121

Welcome to my 121st gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. Linear Graphs
It's always good news when Paul Rowlandson publishes a new blog post. His latest post looks at various ways of presenting information that leads to the equation of a straight line. If you're teaching this topic I really recommend reading this and making use of the tasks and ideas featured.
Related to this, check out this awesome task shared by Tim Honeywill (@HoneywillTim).

2. Knowledge Organisers
It looks like some maths departments are being asked to produce knowledge organisers as part of a whole school policy. It's not clear whether they are as useful in maths as they are in other subjects, but if you're in a school where you've been asked to produce them for every maths topic then you're faced with a mammoth task. To avoid duplication of effort across schools, you might find this set of knowledge organisers a useful starting point. Also, check out the set of  Year 7 and Year 8 knowledge organisers shared by Delta Trust, and these lovely knowledge organisers shared by Nicola Whiston (@whisto_maths). Nicola will continue to add her knowledge organisers to this folder as she makes them. They are designed around the White Rose scheme of work.
These resources can be used in numerous ways - even if your school doesn't have a policy of self-testing using knowledge organisers then you still might find this resource helpful for revision.

Nicola Whiston (@whisto_maths) has also made a learning journey for the White Rose Scheme of Work - schools following this scheme of work will find this helpful, and even if you're not following this scheme of work then it is interesting to see the way the maths curriculum has been mapped out.

3. A Level Maths Activities 
The Mathematical Association has just published a book, written by David Miles, which contains photocopiable activities for A level lessons. It's selling very well - you can order now from the MA shop for £6.30 (members) or £9.00 (non-members). I will also be selling these books from the MA stand at #mathsconf22 in Manchester.

Although it's already available to buy, this book will be officially launched at the MA Conference in April, along with a couple more exciting new publications - Geometry Juniors by Ed Southall and Hooked on Mathematics by Jenni Black. Do come along to the book launch if you're at the conference.

4. Etymology
Caroline Spalding (@MrsSpalding) shared a picture of a poster she saw in a science lab at her school. It shows etymological roots of science vocabulary.
This prompted Ben Gordon (@mathsmrgordon) to make a maths version of this which he has shared here. Thank you Ben!

Following this, Sudeep (@boss_maths) shared an amazing resource to help relate maths terms with key words from other subjects or words in everyday use.
This large (and growing) collection is outstanding. I love Boss Maths resources - they are always high quality.

I love featuring etymology in my lessons. It's great to see resources like this to help teachers develop their subject knowledge.

5. New Resources
There have been lots of new resources shared on Twitter recently. Here are some examples.

Don Steward has published lots of new tasks, including fraction shading and order of operations with expressions.

Do scroll through his blog to see his new resources - there are many!

Andy Lutwyche (@andylutwyche) regularly shares new resources. Check out his newest Transforming Shapes Codebreaker which is bound to be popular with students (and not just because of the terrible joke!).
As always, all of these resources will be listed in my resource libraries for easy access.

Chris McGrane (@ChrisMcGrane84) shared an interesting task on negatives numbers that really got me thinking.
Emma McCrea (@MccreaEmma) tweeted about a couple of openmiddle.com tasks. I have blogged about this website before but haven't had time to explore all the tasks. I particularly like this one on index laws.
Mr Russell (@mathsDRL) reminded me about Jon Orr's (@MrOrr_geek) Polygon Pile Up activity. I know I saw it a couple of years ago and I was sure that I'd featured it in a Gems post, but I can't find it so maybe I didn't. Here it is - read the accompanying blog post for the resource, discussion, and a more difficult version.
Here are my recent blog posts in case you missed them:
On Monday I visited Sheffield to record another two Topics in Depth video CPD podcasts with Craig Barton. You can check out our indices and angles in parallel lines videos if you missed them. Hopefully the next two will be published by TES soon.

My book is still getting good feedback - I am always delighted to receive tweets from teachers who have learnt something new from it.

I was also chuffed to see my book shortlisted for the Chalkdust Book of the Year 2019. You can read the Chalkdust review of my book here and vote for it here (though to be fair, all these books are awesome and deserve more votes than mine!).

I'm looking forward to two big events that are coming up soon. On Pi Day I will be in Manchester for #mathsconf22, presenting a new talk from my Topics in Depth project: Surds in Depth.
In the Easter holidays I will be presenting at the MA Conference. I can't wait for this: two nights in a spa hotel with loads of amazing workshops and plenty of entertainment.

At the MA we're really pleased that our new conference format has been so well received. Over one hundred delegates have already booked their place. There aren't many full residential places left so book now!

I recently passed a milestone of 30,000 followers on Twitter. I'm not sure there are many other females on EduTwitter who have done this and are still teaching. I'm pleased people find my account useful, and I really appreciate the support.

Finally, did you see the Joanne dress from Popsy? If, like me, you enjoy going to work (and maths conferences) in mathematical attire, then you'll like this one...