14 July 2019

5 Maths Gems #113

Welcome to my 113th gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers.

1. L Shapes
In MathsPad's July update they shared a free interactive tool for finding missing sides of L-shapes. This can be used to demonstrate how the vertical lines on one side of the shape match the total length on the other side and to help pupils separate horizontal and vertical measures when finding missing lengths. There are accompanying worksheets too.

I know I've said it before, but I love MathsPad! It's well worth the subscription. I'll be teaching Year 7 and 8 next year and have been busy working on resourcing the Scheme of Work over the last two weeks. Many of my recommended resources for each topic come from MathsPad.

2. Maths in Science
Thanks to science teacher Adam Bilton (@heroteach) for sharing a practice booklet for maths in science. Look at this alongside the Maths in Science CPD I shared in Gems 102 to get a better idea of the maths content of the science curriculum. Knowing this stuff helps maths teachers work better with their science department in terms of consistent methods, order of topics and so on.
3. Puzzles for the Classroom
Thank you to Sarah Carter (@mathsequalslove) for sharing Erich Friedman's website. There are loads of great activities to explore here. Sarah has picked out a couple of examples that would work well at school:

Arithmetic Sequence Puzzle
In the Arithmetic Sequence puzzle students fill in some of the blank squares with digits 0-9. Each row and column should contains exactly 3 digits, and these digits should form an increasing arithmetic sequence. Here's an example:

There are 15 increasingly difficult puzzles to complete and solutions are provided.

Number Mazes
Here you start with the number on the left. By moving through the maze and doing any arithmetic operations on the number that you encounter, you exit the maze with the result on the right. You may pass through an operation several times, but you can not make a U-turn. The results of all operations will be positive whole numbers. Each maze has several solutions, but has a unique shortest solution.
There are 16 puzzles and solutions are provided. I've had a go at this - it's fun and the maths is accessible, so I've added it to my 'First Lessons with Year 7' post.

Finally, also check out the 'What's Special About this Number' page. If in your classroom you like to share interesting number facts (eg relating to the date) then this will be very helpful! The list goes all the way up to 9999.

4. Circle Game
This circle sketching game was shared by Graham Walton (@mr_g_walton). Although the scoring seems a bit inconsistent at times, it's fun to try and draw the best possible circle. It works on a phone and a computer. Have a go!
5. Topic Grids
Both BossMaths and MathsBot recently launched new features which can be used to instantly generate mixed topic retrieval activities.

A couple of months ago BossMaths added 'Top Topics' to their site. Using this tool teachers can create grids of up to six questions on topics of their choice. There are over 120 question variants and it's very easy to adjust the difficulty level. I like it that once you've shown the answer you can instantly generate an almost identical question, so if pupils struggled with it then they can have another go after you've gone through it.

On MathsBot there's now a 'last lesson, week, month, year' retrieval starter tool. A lot of teachers have been using this approach to lesson starters since the idea was first popularised last year - this MathsBot tool will save a lot of time in making those starters.

Thank you to @boss_maths and @StudyMaths for their generosity in sharing these free tools for teachers.

June is always my busiest month in terms of conferences and events - it's been awesome but I'm pleased to have my weekends back now! I also started my new job last Monday. It's wonderful to be properly back in a school after a year on the central team. My school currently just has Year 7s and they are absolutely lovely. I can't wait to teach them maths next year. Along with my new team I'm planning to try some exciting stuff - like ringbinders instead of exercise books in maths for the whole of Year 7 and 8. No doubt I will blog about how it all goes.

In case you missed them, my two recent blog posts were:
And here are two of my older posts that are always popular at this time of year:
Even though it was a few weeks ago, I haven't yet had the chance to report back on La Salle's #mathsconf19 which took place in South Yorkshire. It was a great conference in a particularly lovely venue. I enjoyed pre-conference drinks, ran the MA bookstand, presented on the evolution of maths vocabulary, caught up with my Twitter pals Ed and Tom, and went to some great workshops.
If you missed it on Twitter at the time, do check out this thread from Sam Blatherwick which features exercises from his workshop on inequalities. There were some questions in this set of exercises that I've never asked before and this made me think about the gaps in my explanations.

Last Monday I delivered the closing plenary at the Kent and Medway Maths Hub Conference. It was lovely that I got to have dinner with some of the speakers and organisers the night before, including James and James from my PGCE course.
I really enjoyed the workshops I attended. In Peter Hubble's session on algebraic proof he shared a funny Abbott and Costello video that I'd never seen before.

In Pietro Tozzi's workshop on Edexcel A level, he told us that some schools have started using the large data set to teach statistics at Key Stage 3 and 4 to build early familiarity. For example schools who do Edexcel A level use weather data for GCSE box plots and so on. He also shared some large data set resources.
Another thing that Pietro shared that I hadn't seen before was a set of really good videos from Pearson explaining how to use the Classwiz at A level. Teachers who are teaching A level for the first time next year would benefit from watching these videos to ensure they are familiar with all the new calculator functions.
And finally from this conference, here's a great problem shared by Charlie Stripp.

In other news:
  • I wrote June's edition of the MA eNews. We have recently relaunched this newsletter - not only does it contain news from the MA and the wider world of maths education, but it also now contains puzzles and resources for maths teachers. Subscribe here to receive future editions.
  • This year's Big Math Off is underway. I competed last year and that meant I had the honour of picking an entrant for this year's competition. I nominated Vincent Pantaloni - you can read his entries, and all the other wonderful maths being shared, on aperiodical.com.
  • Don't forget to book your ticket for Marvellous Maths Teaching which is being run by me and Craig Barton in October 2019. We've sold around 90 tickets already, which is exciting given that we know that most teachers won't be in a position to book until September. 

I'll leave you this video, shared on Twitter by @DrFrostMaths. It's an American Youtuber completing an Edexcel Maths GCSE paper. I found it surprisingly enjoyable! It's weird, and quite insightful, to hear someone's entire thought processes as they do maths.


  1. Thanks Jo. Brilliant variety in your Gems as usual. I'm retired now and have time to appreciate them. Sadly, not sure if I'd have found time to incorporate them in my classrooms due to other pressures, etc. Incidentally, my school had used Ring Binders for all Maths classes for many years - initially using day-to-day SQ-7mm A4 punched paper [and having available grid specialities on demand - SQ10mm, 5mm, ISODot, Geoboards3x3,4x4, Modulo circles, etc - actually well over 50 varieties housed in Gratnell trays], then latterly moving to A4 32 page 7mm exercise books - again punched 4-holes that were stored in student Ring Binders alongside specialist grid sheets and A4 activity-worksheets and record cards. I liked the system and it worked well. By the way, I'd definitely recommend paying a little more for Ring Binders with 4D rings - keeps student work much more securely. Good luck!

    1. Over 50 varieties of speciality paper! That's awesome. I aspire to have such a well stocked maths department. Thank you for the advice here, much appreciated.

  2. Can we get a hint on Charlie Stripp's problem?

    1. Use triangle areas. I used a triangle with base AB and equated the area to a combination of triangles with total base AD.

      There's some nice solutions/discussions in this thread: https://twitter.com/mathsjem/status/1148202463926870016