Here’s what I wish…

A few years ago I moved to a school with much wider ability range than I had ever taught in before. For the first time in a while, I felt truly challenged as a teacher. It also coincided with my first ever #mathsconf,  and so it really made think about the materials I use and the scheme of work I follow.

We tried Pearson Activelearn with KS3 – it seemed so promising. Different tiers for different levels of students, regular tests, the ability to project examples onto the board. In reality though, it didn’t work out for us.

I recently read Craig Barton’s excellent book ‘How I wish I’d taught maths’ and it got me thinking.

So here’s what I wish…

  • I wish there were textbooks and schemes of work which, like the Activelearn idea of theta, delta, pi, are suitable for different levels of students but, unlike the Activelearn model, follow the topics in the same order so that if set changes are necessary students can switch level with minimal disruption.
  • I wish each lesson had a PowerPoint I could project. The first slide would be a 10 question quiz, carefully structured around Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve to ensure previous topics were revisited just at the point when students were about to forget them.
  • The next slide would be a few multiple choice questions so I could check students have the prerequisites required for this topic, allowing me to spot any misconceptions and fix them before beginning the main part of the lesson.
  • The next slide would show examples and non-examples to introduce the topic.
  • Then there would be example-problem pairs so I could model to the students how to do the questions.
  • I wish the textbook exercise would begin with some (sorry not some, LOTS of) deliberate practice – minimally different questions. I want the students to develop the procedural fluency first.
  • I wish bigger topics would be broken down – an example, then some questions. Another example, more questions.
  • I wish that after the topic has been introduced and the basic skills mastered, the textbook would then provide more intelligent and purposeful practice, including an open-ended task at the end (so that super speedy kid who completes the exercise in record time still has something to do!)
  • I wish there were many many tests provided – end of unit, half termly, end of year. Those tests would include many questions to test basic procedural skills, and then other questions which include a problem-solving element.

It’s not too much to ask, is it?


Pythagoras lesson

Just had to share about a lovely Pythagoras lesson I just had with a bright Year 8 group.

Thanks to the amazing Jo Morgan (@mathsjem) I found some great resources through her resourceaholic blog – specifically these Pythagoras problems from The Chalk Face and Spiderbox and this problem from Illustrative Mathematics.

I cut the problems up and put one on each pair of desks. The girls were allowed to work in pairs and simply had to present me with as many correct answers as they could in one hour. They had 3 ‘hint’ tokens that they could trade in for help at any point.

I was really pleased with how they worked, one pair even manged five correct solutions in the time allowed. What was great was how persistent they were about going back and trying again and again if they got it wrong – something they would never do under usual circumstances!

My group have only just learnt Pythagoras’ Theorem, but this is something you could bring out for revision with older classes as well.

ROTF – 24th March 2014

Year 7 – Probability

Year 8 – Simultaneous Equations

  • A QR code activity here.

Year 9 – Percentages; Multiples, factors, primes; HCF and LCM.

Year 10 – Circles, semicircles, sectors and arcs; Surface area and volumes of solids.

  • A nice question to introduce sectors of circles: Which pizza slice is bigger? A 9inch pizza cut in 10 slices or 7.5inch pizza cut in 8 slices?
  • A really nice way to get the students to discover the formula for surface area of a sphere – it does involve bringing oranges!
  • Dan Meyer’s Meatballs problem (from Three Act Maths) brings volumes of cylinder and spheres together nicely.

ROTF – 10th March 2014

Friday is Pi Day! Hopefully there will be some online activities as per last year, but here are a few other ideas as well.

  • Challenge your class to learn as many digits of pi as possible – prizes to whoever can remember the most.
  • Get them to write a pi-em for prep. Explanation here.
  • A nice website with lots of other ideas.

Year 7 – Metric and Imperial Units; Solids

Year 8 – Transformations

  • A fantastic collection of worksheets from the wonderful Tristan Jones – you will need a TES login.

Year 9 – Frequency Tables; Averages; Displaying Data.

  • A nice rich activity from ‘improving learning in maths’.

Year 10 – Problems involving quadratics; Quadratic inequalities; Using graphs to solve equations.


ROTF – 24th February 2014

Year 7 – Parallel lines; Straight Line Graphs

  • An unusual way to teach plotting straight line graphs.

Year 8 – Pythagoras’ Theorem; Volume

Year 9 – Trigonometry

  • A lovely extension activity here.

Year 10 – Converting units; Negative and fractional indices; Solving quadratics by factorisation; The quadratic formula.

  • An ‘improving learning in maths’ suggested lesson.

ROTF – 27th January 2014

Technically not a fortnight, as this lot will last you three weeks.

Year 7 – Formulae; Triangles and Quadrilaterals; Area and Perimeter

Year 8 – Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

  • An ‘improving learning in maths’ suggested lesson for converting between fractions and decimals.
  • An ‘improving learning in maths’ suggested lesson for percentage increase and decrease.

Year 9 – Solving simultaneous equations graphically; Graphs and inequalities; Similar triangles; Pythagoras’ Theorem.

Year 10 – Cubic graphs; Reciprocal Graphs; Alternate Segment Theorem; Intersecting chords and tangents Theorem; Problems involving sets. Shading sets. Set notation.


A Technology Treasure Hunt…

Last weekend, I had a moment of inspiration. Note: This is not necessarily a good thing…

Let’s start at the beginning. This term, I have been using the hour lesson that I have with top set Year 8 on a Tuesday as “Technology Tuesday”. We have had a go with Socrative, Educreations, Dan Meyer’s Three Act Maths…all good fun. Onto this moment of inspiration then.

I know, I thought, we’ll consolidate the work we’ve been doing on straight lines with a treasure hunt around the school! There can be QR codes, and passwords, and problems – it will be wonderful! I mapped it out on the back of an envelope – from the library, to the house room, to the picnic tables. There must be different start points so they aren’t all running around in one big group! The QR codes must be password protected so they can’t move on to the next problem unless they have solved the previous one!

Foolish, foolish, Mrs O’Clee…

The main trouble was that this was complicated to plan, and complicated things take time. A lot more time than I thought! (Probably 3/4 hours planning in total!). The concept was as follows:

  • The students have a booklet.
  • They solve the first page, giving them a password. Also on the first page is a QR code which gives them the clue to their first location. (There were 3 variations of page 1 therefore 3 different start points)
  • Upon arriving at the location, they find a QR code and a clue to the next location.
  • They scan the QR code (password protected) and enter the password they have just found. This then leads them to a problem. They solve the problem to get the next password.
  • They move on to the next location.
  • And repeat.
So what went right?
Well, I was really pleased with the immediate engagement from the girls – they loved running round the school and solving the problems. I told them to be back 5 minutes before the end of the lesson, and they were all 5 minutes late because they wanted to just do one more.
But what went wrong?
The password protected QR codes were a bit of a disaster. If they entered the wrong password 3 times it seemed to lock them out completely, so they all came running back to my room and we had to swap their ipad for a different one that hadn’t been locked out. Perhaps I was missing something, but password protected QR codes are a big fat no-no for my future (plus I had to take out a trial subscription for the privilege of creating the password protected QRs in the first place! A whole $3.95 wasted…)
Of course, that was just my opinion. So today I asked the girls for their feedback. And they LOVED the passwords. Yes, even though they were an absolute pain and at least half of them had issues, they were adamant that they did not want to lose the passwords if we were to do this again. They loved that they had to ‘unlock’ the next problem. I might have to think up a compromise there, because I’ve pretty much had it with password-protected QRs! Perhaps solving the problem gives them a word that completes a URL (maybe a padlet wall) and that leads them to the next location instead?
Other (sensible) suggestions included only sending them to places where they could sit and do workings out, as it was tricky figuring out the problem when they were stood outside next to a wall! Half wanted the clues more spread out, half wanted them less spread out so that was helpful.
I think I will spend a day or two just amending and improving the resources to incorporate those issues before sharing. If you’re interested in seeing them please leave me a comment!

ROTF – 13th January 2014

Year 7 – Algebra and Equations

Year 8 – Area

Year 9 – Solving equations; Using formulae; Positive integer indices; Inequalities.

Year 10 – Direct Proportion; Non-linear relationships; Inverse Proportion.


Year 10 have a go on iMovie…

My classroom smelled like oranges for the rest of the day…lovely!

Becca and Bronte’s Video

Rachel and Katie align their orange peel so carefully! (And I can forgive the misspelling of pi!)

Short and sweet from Cara and Sophie!

Nicely (and quietly!) done by Alex.

I’m not sure why Izzy and Emma are using an American accent!

First ipad lesson review

Fresh from a day’s training with Dragonfly – ‘The iPad in the Maths Classroom’ with Neil Atkin (@natkin), I was keen to try my first iPad lesson with top set Year 8 girls.

I say first lesson, we had actually used a previous lesson for familiarisation. Thanks to Neil for all the ideas!

  • Ground rules. Starting each lesson closing all open apps and clearing the history. That way if you suspect anyone is messing around you can check to see if they have any apps open that they shouldn’t. I also warned them that misuse of the iPad would result in them losing the use of it for that lesson.
  • Introduction to the various sites/apps we would use – Padlet, Socrative, QR codes, Educreations (including them setting up a free Educreations account).
  • When I’m talking, iPads are on the desk with the covers closed.

In the main lesson itself I used one of Dan Meyer’s Three Act Math problems – The Domino Skyscraper in particular.

We used Padlet for students to pose an initial question, and to make their guesses about how many dominos they thought it would take to knock over the Empire State Building. I think next time I may use Socrative for this and then see which I prefer.

I then let them loose on Google and Educreations. Initially, I thought it would be nice if they researched the height of the Empire State building themselves, but inevitably a couple of them Googled ‘domino’ and ‘skyscraper’ and found the answer which somewhat spoiled it! Next time, give them the information they might need and they can stay off Google, methinks!

Problems? Well, time first and foremost. Many of them didn’t finish their Educreations video, and very few managed to send the link to me so I could see what they had done. And as the iPads are not their own, I’m now faced with starting the next lesson dishing out the iPads just so they can log in to Educreations and send me what they’ve done. Next time I will endeavor to make sure this is all done before the lesson end so I can review all their work before the next lesson, and show the best few next time.

Also, the girls are not all using Educreations to show the journey they took to the answer, but just giving their answer much like they would on a piece of paper. Hopefully, in time, they will use the technology to show their thoughts and how they got from A to B.

Once again, I am reaching the conclusion that iPads will not truly change the way I teach until the kids have their own iPad for use at school and at home.

PS. A slightly unforeseen problem when we were using Padlet – clearly some of the boys in a previous lesson (possibly a sexist assumption but I’m sticking to it) had created some shortcuts. One poor girl, whenever she typed in ‘the’, it was replaced by a string of expletives. And we were on Padlet at the time, which flashes up on everyone’s iPad in real time….well, you get the idea. (For the record, Settings>General>Keyboard will take you to shortcuts, then swipe to delete.)