12 January 2019

Five for Five

My friend Ceri recently told me about something she does in her maths lessons. It works really well for pupils who lack confidence in maths. I asked her permission to share it here. It's simple but effective. She calls it 'Five for Five'. I'm sure there are teachers all over the world doing something similar. Here's Ceri's version:

Start by producing a set of five mixed topic questions for the week. It's important that these are tailor-made for your class. You could download something generic, but it doesn't take much longer to write the questions yourself once a week. The advantage of writing the questions yourself is that you can choose five topics that are relevant to your class, for example something they struggled with on a recent assessment, or something they learnt for the first time a few weeks ago. Writing the questions yourself also means you can can get the difficulty level right.

Here's an example of a typical set of questions:

Ceri follows the schedule described below (of course this can be adapted if you don't see the class five times a week).

Ceri gives her class the five questions at the start of the lesson. They have a go on their own, but Ceri knows (because she wrote the questions) that they will struggle. Ceri then spends a good amount of time - half the lesson if necessary - going through the questions. Her pupils annotate their questions with detailed notes.

Ceri gives her class the same five questions with different numbers. Pupils complete the questions on their own but are allowed to look at their work from previous day. Ceri spends a shorter amount of time going through the questions afterwards.

Ceri gives her class the same five questions but again with different numbers. Again, they can refer to their notes and answers from the previous lesson. This is now a fairly quick starter activity. Often they can do it in five minutes ('five for five in five') but there is no time limit. There's something else for pupils to get on with until everyone is ready.

Same again. By now they should be getting them all right.

Same five questions, different numbers, but this time they start the lesson by completing the questions on their own in test conditions without looking at their notes. Even without their notes, it's very likely they will now get them all right. 

Success is very motivating for pupils who struggle in maths. Going from zero marks on Monday to full marks on Friday is very powerful for transforming a pupil's attitude and confidence.

Let me know if you try it.

Thanks to Ceri for letting me share this!


  1. I will be trying this with my bottom set Year 8s and I will blog about the results. I do do something similar, but it will be interesting to tighten up the questions and the process. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I do this but don’t do Fridays under test conditions, So I am going to try this. Students already respond well but I wonder if knowing the final one will be tested will add a level of seriousness

    1. I guess it adds seriousness but also a greater sense of achievement. If pupils who normally don’t do well in maths suddenly start getting full marks on a weekly test, that will probably do a lot for their self esteem. It just needs to be emphasised that it’s a low stakes test so it doesn’t stress them out.

  3. Very nice way to build confidence with a set of questions. I think it would be really useful to repeat the questions in other weeks - not all together but one of the questions mixed into a different set. This would allow the teacher to see if pupils have retained the skills.

  4. We do something very similar using Mr Carter Maths' custom questions. We can differentiate the questions for our mixed ability groups, share the URL across the department, and easily generate more questions if necessary. It's really helped our students with their retrieval and memory of concepts.

  5. This has TRANSFORMED my foundation year 10 group. They are so proud when they do well, and even the kids who really don't care are getting swept along with it. The rest of the lesson benefits too and they are calm and engaged. Great idea, thank you!

  6. I do something quite similar. I write out five or ten harder questions on the whiteboard in one lesson. It is a starter for the lesson. More able pupils have to answer them independently in their exercise books whilst I focus on the others. After about fifteen minutes I check to see how many are right or not.