21 August 2014

The Hidden Treasures of Shell Centre

Discovering Shell Centre is like finding buried treasure. It's packed full of amazing resources but you have to spend time rifling through them. Mark McCourt says, “Shell Centre should be a staple of every maths teacher's repertoire” and, well, he's the kind of person one pays attention to. So here's a little guided tour of the highlights, to help you become better acquainted with the wonders of Shell Centre.
Go to mathshell.org and you're met with these nine options (note the amusing url by the way... maths hell? Thanks to Tilly Warden for pointing that out! Very memorable). 
If you're specifically looking for teaching resources, this is a bit overwhelming. Let me point you in the right direction...
I've been using these resources for a while and have already featured many of them in my resource recommendations. The website is a little difficult for UK teachers to navigate because it's organised according to American school grades and Common Core Standards. The two main areas of interest to us are lessons and tasks.

Lessons: There's loads of great stuff here - browse the topics in the left hand menu. Grade 6 is approximately equal to UK Year 7 so includes topics such as Mean, Median, Mode and Range. 'High School' covers GCSE and AS level materials. When you've selected a topic, scroll down to the heading 'resources'. The downloadable PDFs contain both lesson plans and printable activities. For example, the activities in 'Identifying Similar Triangles' are perfect for a Year 11 lesson on similarity.

Steps to Solving Equations - Mathematics Assessment Project

Tasks: These are also hard to navigate because instead of being organised by topic they are split into Novice, Apprentice and Expert. Novice tasks are short items focused on specific concepts or skills. Apprentice tasks are more substantial, but structured so as to ensure that all students have access to the problem. Expert Tasks are rich tasks often set in a ‘real-world’ context. There are tasks suitable for Key Stages 3, 4 and 5. The Standard Form task 'Giantburgers' is a nice example.
Giantburgers - Mathematics Assessment Project

I haven't looked at all of the lessons and tasks offered by the Mathematics Assessment Project yet but at some point I'll go through them and file them in my resource libraries.

Bowland Maths
Bowland Maths provides projects and tasks for Key Stage 3 pupils. At my school we often use the tasks as end of term activities. For example at Christmas my Year 7s do Speedy Santa in which pupils have to work out how long Santa can spend at each house delivering presents. My pupils also enjoy the task 110 years on.

The projects, such as 'Football: the beautiful game', take 2 - 5 lessons and have lovely supporting resources like video introductions. Time for projects like this should be incorporated into Key Stage 3 schemes of work, otherwise we'll never feel like we can spare the time for them.

There are four downloadable publications here:
The print quality isn't great because these 30 year old books have been scanned in. If you have time to go through the PDFs then they are full of great material, though it would be nicer to flick through the books themselves (sadly they are no longer available to order, but I suspect many schools have copies). Technology changes but maths is timeless.

Hurdles Race - Red Box

The excellent Standards Unit materials were also partly developed at the Shell Centre and are now available to download from Mr Barton's website. If you use these, did you know that a helpful teacher has created a load of accompanying PowerPoints? See Mr Barton's blog post about this.

This is all about inquiry approaches to teaching and learning at Key Stage 3. Inquiry based learning aims to promote curiosity, engagement and in-depth learning. This materials database contains some lovely resources but again, it's not organised by topic so is hard to navigate. Here's an excellent activity in which pupils make their own algebra pyramids.

An algebra pyramid - Primas

So there you go, a whistle-stop tour of Shell Centre. And what's even more exciting is that this page lists the projects that are currently underway to bring us more resources in the future.


  1. Great post. Have used some of these before but a long time ago. Great to be reminded about them. Will try out that Primas one as that is new to me!

    1. Thanks Martin, I'm glad you found it helpful.