17 January 2015

5 Maths Gems #22

Hello and welcome to my 22nd gems post - this is where I share five teaching ideas I've seen on Twitter.

I've discovered at school this week that change is hard. It's easy to say 'I'm not going to teach it like that anymore' or 'I have a fantastic new idea for teaching this topic' but when it comes to actually delivering lessons it's easy to stick with tried and tested methods and resources. We want our students to take risks but how often do we take risks as teachers? This has been on my mind a lot this week - I'll write a post about this soon.

1. 2015
Every year Chris Smith features the Math Forum Year Game in his newsletter. The idea is to use the digits in the year 2015 and the operations +, -, x, ÷, ^ (raised to a power), sqrt (square root), and ! (factorial), to write expressions for the integers 1 to 100. Answers can be submitted through the Math Forum website, or perhaps you could make a classroom/corridor display like these examples:
2015 Challenge classroom display by @Jeremy_Denton
Challenge 2015 display by @c0mplexnumber
Clarissa Grandi has very helpfully loaded her display resources onto TES. Paul Collinspost about the 2014 challenge is also worth a read if you're going to try this.

2. The Constant Character
Teaching indefinite integration? I loved this tweet from @inFinnityPi.

This lovely idea originated from @edenspresence who shared the student-decorated constant characters below. When students forget the 'plus C' they have to decorate a character - a good way to make it stick!
3. 'I helped'
A nice idea from @GiftedBA - 'I helped' stickers to encourage students to offer each other meaningful help and to recognise those who do so. Download a sticker template here.
4. What's the question?
A really nice idea from Marcus Fleet is to write an answer on the board and ask students for possible questions.
It's nice that the class have chosen a winning question!

I'm quite surprised to see the kind of algebra students are doing in Year 6 - it's more advanced than I realised.

In the conversation that followed this tweet, Miss_Ren said that she likes to write a number on the board and ask what the question could have been. It links to all areas of maths and requires no printed resources. Paul Godding shared some similar ideas - such as writing 5, 9 and 10 on the board and asking for the odd one out (students have to come up with two reasons for each answer). There's load more fantastic problems like this on Paul's website 7puzzleblog.com.

5. What the examiner sees
If you're teaching a Year 11 class I think it's well worth showing them this picture from @TheMathsMagpie to ensure they are aware that they shouldn't work outside the allocated spaces in their exams.
This post gives more information about the picture above. Use it alongside this very helpful set of slides GCSE Maths - Easy Ways to Make Sure You Don't Lose Marks, also from @TheMathsMagpie.

I'm resisting the urge to write a weekly post reflecting on what went well (and what didn't go well) at school. Instead I'll just feature one personal reflection in each of my gems posts.

I'm teaching angles to Year 7 at the moment. I gave them a homework in which they were required to give reasons for their answers. Some students gave brilliant reasons and I was pleased to see the correct use of mathematical terms I'd taught them such as 'supplementary'. But many students just wrote out their calculations in words instead of stating the angle facts they'd used.
In their defence, we hadn't practised 'giving reasons' in class, so I decided to address this by setting some angle problems and asking for full reasons with each answer. Conveniently Don Steward has just published a set of angle problems that were the right level of challenge.
It seemed like a good idea but I wouldn't say the lesson went well. What happened was that my students were writing such detailed reasons in full sentences that it became really time-consuming (for example solving question 8 above involves using three different angle facts, hence three sentences). They were doing so much writing that they weren't doing enough maths for my liking. Plus you could hear a pin drop in my classroom, and that makes me uncomfortable. In the end I told them to stop writing full sentences and write one-word bullet points instead (eg isoscoles/triangle/straight line/complementary etc). They were really relieved! I'd love to hear my readers' thoughts on this - should I have persevered with the dull but important sentence-writing practice? I'm not sure. Please tweet me your opinion!


  1. I often have that same concern over workrate vs efficacy that you had with the explaining angle rules. However, making them express their answers in full sentences will have helped to secure their understanding and reinforce the idea that we do have do justify ourselves in Maths. Ties in quite nicely with @srcav's post about knowledge vs skills.

    1. Thanks Mr H, it's very helpful to hear your view. It does tie in with Cav's post - an interesting debate.

  2. Another great set of gems. I will definitely be using the plus C one in the future. I regularly use the What's the Question activity as a starter (I have a random one on my website http://www.interactive-maths.com/whats-the-question-qqi-starter.html) and find that it really gets the students to think of some good questions. I like the idea of having a winning question, something I will do in the future.

    1. Thank you Dan! I like the 'winning question' idea too. Great website by the way - a fantastic set of resources.