8 March 2015

5 Maths Gems #26

Hello and welcome to my 26th maths gems - this is where I share teaching ideas and resources I've seen on Twitter. There's a lot going on this week - exciting times for maths teachers! Pi Day is fast approaching and it's a big one this year - 3.14.15. Many of us are busy planning Pi Day activities at school - I've included a few ideas in this post. Speaking of Pi Day, excitement is building for La Salle Education's National Mathematics Teacher Conference next weekend. I have loads of great stuff to share in my workshop - I'm nervous but really looking forward to it! The other big event this week is tonight's inaugural #mathsTLP. This is a collaborative lesson planning session at 7pm on Twitter hosted by @solvemymaths and I. Please join in to share ideas - for details see my previous post.
Things people do on Pi Day - Spiked Math
1. Helpful Exercise Books
I spotted foldable vertical number lines when reading Sarah Hagan's excellent blog Math = Love. I'm definitely going to use these next year - I'll try it out with my new Year 7s in September. They'll stick a vertical number line in the back of their exercise book. The number line can then be unfolded and referred to whenever it's helpful to do so. It's good to get students in the habit of using number lines, and I think that vertical number lines are more helpful than horizontal ones.

Speaking of number lines, this post about Open Number Lines by @mburnsmath is worth a read. I use number lines like this on the board all the time.
Back to exercise books, I was really interested in @Ms_Kmp's post 'Indexed Learning' which is about students numbering every page in their exercise books. The post describes the numerous advantages of page numbers - I particularly like the idea of students creating a topic index at the back of their book.

2. Parallel Line Mazes
I enjoyed @MathyMcMatherso's post 'Parallelogram Mazes & Introducing Proof'. It features resources for teaching angles in parallel lines like the maze shown below.
I particularly like this question involving algebra - find the value of f.
3. Reverse Questioning
I often write about Don Steward's resources - his website is wonderful. Ed (@solvemymaths) arranged for Don Steward to run a workshop at Hudderfield University a couple of weeks ago and I was gutted I couldn't go. Thankfully Ed wrote a very helpful post which included Don's presentations and activities. Hannah (@missradders) also wrote a lovely post about the key things she took away from the workshop.

The 'reversing the question' activity below caused quite a stir on Twitter - it's a fantastic idea. Thanks to @PardoeMary we've managed to find the original source of the problem - the 'Bag of Flour' task was described by Alan Bell as an example of a ‘making up questions’ task in Mathematics Teaching Issue 118.
Fawn Nguyen's post about her experience using this activity with her 6th graders (equivalent to Year 7) is worth reading.

I like all the 'making up questions' material - here's another set of examples from Don's presentation:
Do read Hannah and Ed's posts about the other amazing stuff that Don Steward shared in his workshop. 

4. Communication and Vocabulary
Are you following @ExplainingMaths on Twitter? He shares great teaching ideas. I like his sentence stems display which helps students to develop their communication skills.
I also like his idea to get students to create and regularly update their own mathematics dictionaries.
Finally, I loved what he did with the World's Hardest Easy Geometry Problem which I wrote about in Gems 23 - he made an interactive display on the wall for students to have a go at.

5. Pi Day
My school doesn't normally do anything for Pi Day but this year we have a few things planned, including a pie baking competition, a treasure hunt and a Poetry Pi-Cital. The latter involves students writing and reciting a short poem about Pi, inspired by the poem at the start of this video:

Here's a few more Pi Day ideas that you might not have thought of:
  • Pi recital competition. Prize for the student who recites the most digits of Pi. 
  • ‘Tell a maths teacher an interesting fact about Pi’
  • Freehand circle drawing competition
  • Make a giant Pi paper chain (a different colour for each number).

There's also two nice ideas in this post from @InteractMaths.

That's it for today's gems. If you're coming to the conference next week then I look forward to meeting you, either at my workshop or during the Tweet Up (information about both sessions can be found here). Do come and say hi.

Finally, here's some pictures of the fantastic work done by my Year 10s - I love my new circle theorems wall. It was an easy and enjoyable lesson to run - I just gave them paper plates, straws and pins and they got on with it!


  1. Thanks for this - I like four of the ideas in this post and that rarely happens.

  2. thanks for sharing this. My kid is struggling with math, will definitely try these ideas.

    1. I'm glad it's helpful. Thanks for the feedback. :)

  3. I am interested in your circle theorem wall with the paper plates and straws. I will be starting my unit on circles in Geometry and am looking for some new ideas. You refer to it as an enjoyable lesson. Do you have resources for it? I am curious if you had you students illustrate a variety of theorems and just had them choose one or two. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi. All I did was take along paper plates, pens, straws and pins. I recapped the circle theorems then I presented them with a blank wall and showed a couple of examples. They each made three or four plates and put them on the wall themselves. Very easy to plan!

  4. Jo the link for the paper plate activity won't work :/

    1. Hi. This post is five years old so not all links will still work - but I don't know which one you mean. There isn't a link to the paper plate activity.