16 June 2019

5 Maths Gems #112

Welcome to my 112th gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. Classic Errors
I like this activity suggested by James Tanton (@jamestanton). James asks 'Would taking classic and tempting errors "head-on" be a worthwhile classroom activity and discussion?'.  It's worth reading the responses in the thread. In it Cathy Yenca‏ (@mathycathy) recommends the classic resource 'Algebra Atrocities' which is worth a look.
2. Geogebra Percentages
Thanks to Mark Horley (@mhorley) for sharing some helpful Geogebra applets created by ⁦‪@orchiming‬⁩ .
These interactive tools help with explanations of percentages. For example the profit and loss applet shows really clearly how the calculation works.
3. Area Mazes
I know I've featured Area Mazes in my gems posts an number of times before, but I think they're really fun so there's no harm in mentioning them again. Have a go at this one -  it was tweeted by @Errs5 and is taken from the Area Quiz app which looks excellent.
4. Calculator Crunch
In my post about Year 11s lacking basic calculator skills I mentioned that MEI are running Calculator Crunch to encourage schools to get younger pupils using calculators. Aimed at Year 6 and 7, they are sharing a daily calculator challenge between 10th and 20th June. You can download all the daily challenges from the MEI website and use them at any time. They have also provided a Year 6 lesson plan and a Year 7 lesson plan that you can download here.
Check out the hashtag #CalculatorCrunch to see examples of pupils' work.

5. Place Value
Another great idea for using calculators is in a lesson on place value. Tom Francome shared this 'Place Invaders' task in a conference workshop - it's taken from the ATM book Practising Mathematics which he wrote with Dave Hewitt.
Grab a calculator and have a go and you'll see why this is a great task to use when teaching place value. I think that place value is one of the hardest things to teach in Year 7 so it's helpful to see a good quality activity for this. Tom suggested it would also work well with standard form.

Exam season is nearly over, and it's been an unusually turbulent one this year. We've had questions that appeared to be copied from textbooks, a mistake in an A level, controversial contexts, a leaked exam and some surprisingly challenging A level papers. Never a quiet day in maths education!

I recently made a final set of GCSE revision resources which you can find on my GCSE revision resources page. You might find these resources helpful if you have Year 10s preparing for end of year exams.

I presented at ResearchED Rugby yesterday. My session focused on multiplication - first we looked at a range of multiplication methods and then I presented a critique of each of the reasons the Government gave for prescribing 'formal' methods at Key Stage 2. For the remainder of the day I attended excellent sessions in the maths strand. Rugby School has an incredible history so was a cool venue for a conference.

Next weekend I'll be presenting on the Evolution of Maths Vocabulary at La Salle's conference in Yorkshire. Read my blog post "Whatever happened to vulgar fractions?" to get an idea of the sort of thing I'll be talking about, and if you find it interesting then do come along to my workshop. I'll also be manning the MA bookstand for most of the day so do come and say hello if you get the chance.

Bookings are going well for the training course I'm running with Craig Barton in October. This course is open to all maths teachers and we have two dates available - a northern leg and a southern leg. Ask your school or college to book your place now if you want to come along.

At the end of May Ed Southall and I relaunched The Mathematical Association's eNews. This monthly newsletter provides an update of what's going on with the MA and also in the wider world of maths education. We now feature exclusive monthly puzzles for your students (written by Ed), and there are more new features coming soon. You can subscribe here to receive eNews from the end of June.

I've been kindly sent a couple of books by their authors recently. Kyle D Evans sent me a copy of 'Here Come the Numbers' which my daughters (aged five and seven) love as a bedtime story. It's both mathematical and lovely.
Mark Ritchings sent me a copy of 'GCSE Maths Challenge' which contains 40 GCSE style questions that are aimed at pupils who are working at a Grade 8 or 9. This short book might be helpful for a GCSE tutor, or possibly a top set teacher who needs a few extra ideas for extension questions to write on the board.
Maths teacher Richard Atkin (@RichardAtkin1) - whose uncle was a Trustee of the MA - very kindly delivered an enormous number of old maths books to my house. This will keep me busy for a while! I've already found lots of treasures that have taught me new things. I estimate that I now own at least 300 different maths textbooks dating from 1800 to 2000. I love this!

A group of us are going to Matt Parker's Humble Pi comedy show on 16th July in London (it's a preview of his Edinburgh Fringe show). If you want to join us, book a ticket here and let me know you're coming. There are similar comedy nights in London listed here, including one that features the amazing FoxDog Studios. FoxDog Studios will also be at Edinburgh Fringe and are doing gigs in various locations before then - dates are listed here. They are amazing.

I'll leave you with this great activity shared by Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove). You can download the full resource from her blog. This puzzle might work well in a first Year 7 lesson in September, along with the other tasks I listed in my post Year 7 Maths Activities.


  1. My dept are seeing Humble Pi in High Wycombe in November!

  2. You could remove the download link for the lesson plans of Calculator Crunch as they don't require filling a form anymore. The links are on the page you link before. And in order to remove confusion, you should remove this comment afterwards as well.