23 May 2017


Today is #malcolmswanday - a day for members of the maths education community to celebrate the life of the late Professor Malcolm Swan. Peter Mattock's blog post explains how you can get involved. I did not have the privilege of meeting Malcolm Swan myself, though I was lucky enough to be introduced to his awesome Standards Unit resources during my PGCE. Since then I have blogged a number of times about his resources, including my posts 'Classic Resources' and 'The Hidden Treasures of Shell Centre'. If you're not familiar with the work of Malcolm Swan, I recommend that you read his obituary in The Guardian and this lovely tribute from MEI.

In this post I share four examples of my favourite Malcolm Swan resources - those of the Mathematics Assessment Project. This project was based in America but I find that many of the resources work well in my classroom, from Key Stage 3 through to Key Stage 5.

1. Describing and Defining Quadrilaterals
I used to dislike teaching quadrilateral properties - I couldn't find any good resources that helped me assess my students' understanding. Then I discovered Describing and Defining Quadrilaterals from Malcolm Swan and his team at the Mathematics Assessment Project. The lesson materials include discussion prompts and assessment tasks. As in the Standards Unit, misconceptions are highlighted...

...and some elements of the lesson are scripted.

The resources provided are excellent, including this lovely activity:

2. Using Standard Algorithms for Number Operations 
This lesson is intended to improve students' conceptual understanding of why and how written methods of arithmetic work (such as column addition) and develop procedural fluency. Again, the lesson materials include questioning prompts and potential misconceptions. Tasks include 'Getting it Wrong':

3. Classifying Equations of Parallel and Perpendicular Lines
This lesson works well at both GCSE and A level. I remember giving the task below to my Year 10s for a homework last year and being surprised by how hard they found it.

The lesson materials are packed full of excellent tasks, including this:

... and a collaborative task in which students have to group equations of straight lines according to their properties.

4. Applying Angle Theorems
In this lesson students are presented with four alternative methods for solving this angle problem:
The task requires students to make sense of the different methods and evaluate each approach.

There are loads of excellent resources to explore on the Mathematics Assessment Project website, from full lessons to short assessment tasks (which work really well as homeworks). Do explore this website if you haven't already - Malcolm Swan was an absolute legend, and his resources are a testament to his brilliance.


  1. I had the privilege of working with Malcolm every year at the Institute of Maths Pedagogy in Oxford. He was amazing - kind, funny, patient and fiercely intelligent. I remember when his kids had got him onto Angry Birds...he found it absolutely hilarious. Sad times.

    1. Thanks for your comment, it's lovely to hear from people who knew him. It sounds like he was such a wonderful man.