16 February 2019

5 Maths Gems #104

Welcome to my 104th gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. Don Steward
Hurrah for the return of Don Steward!

He has been busy publishing loads of new resources on his website recently, covering topics such as ratio, vectors and linear graphs. I can't keep up with it all.
Extract from GCSE line questions

His new resources include a number of different ratio and proportion tasks including a useful set of ratio with algebra questions. Thank you Don!
Extract from Best Buys
2. Starters
Thanks to Danielle Moosajee (@PixiMaths) for sharing a huge collection of free starter questions. She has created a mixed topic starter for every lesson of the year. They are grouped by target grade, with packs for grades five and nine created so far. This might be a time saver for lots of teachers.
3. Structured Recall
For years I have made good use of Susan Whitehouse's topic summary resources at A level. They work really well as a revision activity - students have to explain a method and complete an example for the various skills within topic.  Here's what it looks like for linear graphs.
I like these so much that a couple of years ago I tried to make a set of them for GCSE in the same format (ie one column for the method in the student's own words, one column for an example question) but I didn't have time to complete them. So I have a folder of unfinished attempts.

I was reminded about these sheets when I saw Miss Walker (@MsWalkerMaths) tweeting about a similar idea that's she has been trying with her students. This is slightly different to the topic summaries though, because the questions are intentionally less specific (including prompts such as 'Tell me about parallel lines').

She also shared some great examples of her students' work.

4. Interhouse Competitions
I have written before about national maths competitions which normally involve taking students out of school. Gemma Elizabeth‏ (@gemma_harney) recently tweeted to ask about ideas for interhouse maths competitions that could be run within a school. Some great ideas were shared so do read the thread.

Coincidentally I was doing my regular batch of TES reviews a couple of weeks later and found a set of resources that could be used for a monthly maths challenge in schools. Thanks to beedup on TES for sharing a nice simple format. The idea is that students who want to take part choose one of two challenges and then have to solve the problem and explain their thinking. The prize goes to the entry with the best explanation. Using Nrich problems or similar it would be pretty quick to create a set of these so the competition could run every month all year round.
5. Hook, Line and Sinker
John Rowe (@MrJohnRowe) has published a really lovely eBook for maths teachers. You can read about it and download the book here.
John says, "I wrote this book to help Maths teachers who simply don’t have time to navigate the thousands of resources available online. This isn’t tailored to a specific country’s standards/ curriculum outcomes, rather a collection of mathematics resources sequenced in a way that I would probably do it as a teacher".

In his book John provides an example sequence of the resources he would use in the teaching of trigonometry and Pythagoras, algebra, indices, quadratics and probability. It's great - do have a read!

I have two big things going on at the moment… My GCSE revision book went on sale and we had loads of bulk orders from schools wanting their students to take these home over Easter. Read about it here. Around the same time, Matt Parker asked me to host his book launch. All 180 tickets sold out in only two days, which was insane. I’m now busy making all the final arrangements for the maths event of the year. If you're coming, check the website for updates.

In other news, I led two large conferences last week, making it my busiest week of all time! The first was a DfE conference in Northampton where I presented on 'Countdown to GCSE'. For those of you who asked for a copy of my presentation, you can download it here. During the TeachMeet I also shared a short presentation about animations - those slides are here.
200 primary and secondary teachers enjoying
Andrew Jeffrey's keynote at #teachmathsnorthants

Two days later was a Harris inset day - I was responsible for organising and hosting the KS3/4 maths strand for about 180 teachers. As part of that I ran two topics in depth sessions. I am so pleased it's half term now because it was an exhausting week! Great fun though.
I recently appeared on the podcast Relatively Prime where I was full of enthusiasm and optimism, but a few days later got really upset by the way a student spoke to me at school, which made me uncharacteristically miserable. The contrast between the highs and lows in this career is astounding at times.

I am looking forward to the flurry of conferences in March. The first is #mathsconf18 which is in Bristol on 9th March. I’m presenting on units and I know everyone will think that doesn’t sound like an appealing session! Trust me, I have some really cool stuff to share.

Later in the month, at #educatingnorthants, I’m presenting on methods (my absolute favourite thing to talk about). I recently saw a good blog post from Nick Corley (@MrCorleyMath) on alternative methods for expanding double brackets which is worth a read.

If you're not a member of a subject association then do consider joining the oldest subject association in the world. The lovely people at The Mathematical Association are now offering membership by monthly direct debit.
It's only £5.20 a month for secondary membership, and even cheaper for trainees, NQTs and primary teachers. Join here.

I’m off on a family holiday to Scotland on Monday - it will be the first time my daughters go on a plane, which is very exciting. If you’re on half term next week too, enjoy!

I'll leave you with this fun angles problem shared by a colleague of Tom Bennison and prettified by Ed Southall. Given it's a square, find the marked angle. In theory, a Year 7 should be able to do this one.


  1. Jamie Williams5 March 2019 at 15:08

    Pleeeaaase can I have some kind of hint towards the triangle problem, you have me stumped! I feel like drawing in the correct line will unlock the secrets, but for now, "I'm stuck!"

    1. Use the fact that it's a square to identify an isosceles triangle.