Thursday, 19 February 2015

Mathematics Assemblies

At the end of the last school year our PSHE coordinator sent an e-mail round to our department asking if any of us would be interested in delivering a Mathematics assembly to all year groups. Having thought about what I could possibly do a Mathematics assembly on I decided to go for it and week beginning 9th March I will be leading an assembly to each of our year groups...all about Mathematics.

Now, I'm thrilled that this week is the week before Pi Day on the 13th March (and the Maths conference run by La Salle Education) and so will be building something in about Pi Day during the assembly.

Having thought about what I want to say in the assembly, I have decided that I will use the chance to speak to every student in our school about their attitudes to their Mathematics and trying to dispel the myths out there about Mathematics and try to move away from the negative perceptions of the subject.

I saw, earlier this evening, this blog post on a similar theme.

I want to voice to our students that it's not ok to say 'i'm rubbish at maths', 'i'm not very good at maths', 'maths is hard' etc, etc. All the things we hear far too often. Indeed, students should be ashamed of saying these things, whereas, currently, they almost say them with pride - as if it's cool to say that they're not very good at it (Mathematics). To put it in context, people are generally ashamed of not being able to read or write and will often say nothing and hide this fact. Then why do we (the general 'we') feel ok to say we're not very good at Mathematics?

I ran a revision session to our Y11 parents last week. The session was aimed at how they can be supporting their child/ren with their Mathematics GCSE revision. After I had covered all of the various ways they can revise for their Mathematics exams and how they should be revising, I mentioned a few other bits of advice. One such piece was to be positive about their Mathematics exam!
Far too often I hear at parents' evenings that parents can't help their child/ren with their Mathematics homework as 'they haven't got a clue', or 'were never very good at Maths at school'. I asked them therefore, whilst understanding that they may not have had a good experience of Mathematics themselves, to be as positive about it as they could. Encourage their child/ren, ask them questions about what they've done, how they've done it, was there anything they could do to check their answer/s, had they looked the question/topic up on the Internet etc, etc. Rather than just going 'oh well, do the best you can'.

I think I want to approach my assemblies with the same sort of tone. Trying to encourage the students to take the 'growth mindset' approach rather than just believing/accepting that they might not be good at Mathematics and therefore giving up altogether.

I also want to highlight good practice from the students themselves. I plan to get some of my students, and other students that my colleagues teach, on board to showcase the good work that is being done. Ideally I'd want them to stand up whilst I talk about the things they've done, or allow me to show their exercise book/work they've produced on the screen - all with an aim of being positive about the Mathematics we are doing at our school, that all it requires is, perhaps, a change in attitude and that they are all capable of doing well with their Mathematics.

I've led a few assemblies this year when standing in for our head of year and so am looking forward to, what I'll now be calling, 'assembly week'. If any Mathematics teachers have given a similar assembly to the students in their schools I'd love to hear what you did/showed etc. Tweet me @mrprcollins or comment below.

Mathematical Plenary Sticks

One of the new resources I have created recently (see them all here) is my 'Mathematical Plenary Sticks'.
The resource is a pdf document with over 100 plenary questions/tasks for Mathematics lessons. Here's the front page of the document...

And here are the sticks once they're cut up, folded and laminated...

 Once laminated, punch a hole through each with a hole punch and then bind them with a keyring chain or treasury tag

 You can see lots of examples of questions here. They're folded over too so there are questions on both sides of each stick
 When gathered together they are neat and can be stored easily
You can print them off as big or as small as you like

I have a set of these on my 'Finished' display board so students can help themselves when finished and choose some questions/tasks to attempt.
Find out more about my 'finished' display board here.

Each page of the pdf comes with the question templates that look like...

Cut around the dotted lines, fold over the bold line inbetween each stick and then either stick them together or laminate them.
There are also some blanks included so you can write your own questions before laminating and binding.

I've used these over the past few years in my lessons. The main reason why I use them is that I tend to forget really good questions/tasks to give my students at the end of lessons. So, I made these sticks and have them on my desk so I can quickly flick through them before or during each lesson. I pick out a few questions that I can pose my class or I give my class a few to choose from - they answer the question they like the most.
Since using them I have come up with other ways they can be used - all of these details can be found in the pdf document...

•Choose 2-3 of these questions/tasks prior to the lesson and put them in your teaching resources for students to answer throughout or at the end of your lesson (take a print screen of the pdf document or put the laminated ‘plenary sticks’ under your visualiser [if you have one] for your class to see)
•Choose particular ‘Plenary Sticks’ to give to certain students throughout the lesson to extend their learning/support them
•Give each student/pair/group a set of these ‘plenary sticks’ at the end of a lesson/series of lessons on a topic and allow them to choose a number of questions/tasks to complete
•Have a set of the ‘Plenary Sticks’ on display in your teaching room for students to go and choose when finished (like on my 'finished' board above)
•Randomly select a question/task from the ‘Plenary Sticks’ (after a brief check it is suitable for your lesson/the topic) and ask this to students at the end of the lesson

All the questions/tasks can be used as starters too and many are transferable to other subjects. Some questions are specific to certain topics, but the majority are general to any Mathematics lesson/topic.

If you like the look of these then here's the link to the resource page on the TES...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

2015...the answers! [Spoiler Alert]

Following my previous post this year on my new displays (see here), my students have now finished the 2 0 1 5 challenge! In fact, they finished it about a month a go - I've only just got round to doing some blogging!

Here's the finished display and how it looks in my classroom...

Each of the solutions has a students' name attached to it (blurred out here for obvious reasons).
They were all rewarded for providing these.

Since the challenge has been completed we have moved the display from my classroom to our Mathematics corridor to show the rest of the students in the school what has been done.

The final 2 solutions (67 and 68) came from one of our top set Y10 students. Their class (taught by one of my colleagues) were given the challenge to do as homework to try and challenge my top set Y11 class, who had done the majority of the solutions to the challenge out of all my classes.
My colleague came and found me one lesson as I was observing our ITT and presented me with their solutions, including the 2 remaining numbers my Y11s hadn't found!

Here's their work...

Congratulations to them for finding the last 2 solutions!

Here's to 2016 and the new, year challenge! :)

The Never Ending Notebook

Earlier this school year the brought out their new A5 and A4 'Magic Notebook'. I've been using mine since then and they're brilliant!

Basically, they are 40/60 page reusable notebooks, each page made out of whiteboard material meaning you can write on and wipe off whatever you like, over and over again. Even better is that the books come with a correctable whiteboard pen. This means that after writing and leaving the ink to dry for a few seconds that the ink can't be wiped off unless using the rubber on the end of the pen, or a whiteboard wipe. This means that you can keep notes for as long as you are like until you are ready to get rid of them!

Here's some of my notes/workings...

Each page in the book(s) is perforated so can be ripped out and can even be printed on in a printer. This is perfect if wanting to print graphs/grids on the reverse of one page. They can then be used as mini whiteboards. If you don't have the correctable pens, you can use ordinary whiteboard pens as you would with any whiteboard. The writing wont stay on them, like the correctable pens, but if you're using them as mini whiteboards - you won't want it to!

Personally, having the notebook is great as I'm forever writing notes down and then either having to get rid of them or keep them somewhere safe. With the Magic Notebook I can take and keep the notes I want and erase them when I'm done. My Notebook is a constant working document. I erase when I need to, I take more notes as I need them. The notebook is never ending - once you have one, you won't need another.

Since I've had the notebook I have wondered if they would be a viable replacement for student's exercise books...?!


How would you mark all the work in the books if work was erased as it was no longer needed?
What is the actual purpose of an exercise book? Is it just to keep notes, workings etc? Or is it to have a log of students' work to evidence and show progress, tick OFSTED's boxes etc?
Could students have a 'working book' and a separate 'rule book'?
Cost of the correctable whiteboard pens? Students struggle to have a working pen on a daily basis, let alone a correctable whiteboard pen!

These are all questions I'm yet to figure out. Nonetheless they're great to have as your own personal notebook and I've since bought an A4 one to go with the original A5 one I got.

Take a look at them here...

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Valentine's Day Mathematics Activities

Yesterday, on the eve of Valentine's Day, I used one of my recently created resources with a few of my classes to celebrate Valentine's Day. Any excuse to run a themed lesson and I'm happy! With my Y7, Y9s and Y11 class I used a number of Mathematical activities as outlined below...

Firstly, I set the tone to the lesson by having some love songs playing in the background as they entered - I chose The Pointer Sisters -Jump (For My Love) and then Michael Jackson's 'The Way You Make Me Feel'. Other love songs are available! :)
I also had my PowerPoint on the board to create some discussion as to what they had to do for the first find their 'true love'.

Here's a link to my newly created resource on the TES:

(save it for after half-term or next year, perhaps?)

The first task involved them finding their 'love percentage' by finding the number of vowels in their name (first name and surname) as a percentage of the total number of letters in their name. Then, by going round the class and comparing each others' love percentages we found some 'true love' matches! (If the percentages matched it was clearly meant to be)!

N.B. I did just clarify to my classes that this was just meant to be a bit of fun and that no actual relationships should be based on the task!

Next, after they had found a love match, they had a task where they looked at a Valentine's Day Menu for my fictional restaurant 'Cupid's Arrow'. They had to work out how many possible combinations of meals they could choose from the menu if they picked 1 starter, 1 main and 1 dessert (there were 3 of each to choose from). We discussed how to best record the information and other questions were asked throughout the task such as what would happen if there were 4 of each meal to choose from, etc.

When the answer of 27 different possible combinations was revealed I then gave the classes a short task of, for the number they love, writing down as many possible questions to which it was the answer. I obviously did the number 27 to provide some examples. What I found with this task is that the different ability classes were able to apply different aspects of what we had been learning to the task. My Y11 set 1s were using laws of indices, equations, surds etc, whereas my lower Y9 class were just using the basic four operations.

Then, with some classes where we had more time, I allowed them a choice of tasks to look into to develop the menu problem further. For other classes I gave them an alternative way of finding their 'true love' by getting them to find values for their names based on the position of the letters in the alphabet. i.e. a=1, b=2, ..., z=26 etc.

The lessons went really well, I had love songs playing in the background throughout the lessons, which went down really well with the kids. The students loved finding their love percentages and values for their names to find their love matches and there was a lot of Ooooooos and Aaaaahhhhhs when certain students were matched up! All done in the spirit of V Day!

A great way to end the half term (even when suffering from man flu)! :)

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Takeaway Homework 2015

If you are unfamiliar with my 'takeaway homework' (twenty seven) then please read these ( & ( posts before reading on. Thanks :)

Last term I decided to leave doing 'takeaway homeworks' with my classes for a few reasons...

My Y11s need to do more exam practice and revision of those topics they've not covered for a while and need refreshing. As for my other classes, well they're all new to me so I felt I needed to get my processes and expectations in place first before setting them off on the takeaway homeworks. A simple worksheet or mymaths task is far easier to explain and to collect in/track etc.

So, now we're in term 2 and all my classes are settled, I have introduced my 'twenty seven' menu to my Year 9s. I'm still keeping my Y11s focused on revision, and my other classes are being taken by the ITTs I'm mentoring!

As I'm using my iPad ('iDoceo' app) to track/plan everything this year it has been even easier for me to take in their homeworks and keep track of the amount of chillies each student is earning. I have a separate sheet for tracking chillies and I can quickly take photos of students' homeworks which then store on my iPad for my future use (especially those that I can't collect in as they're a 'work in progress', or if they're written in their books and I'm not taking in their books that week).

I've had some great pieces of work in this week (first hand in). I said to both my Y9 classes that I will be putting my 'top 5' (at least) on my takeaway homework display (see below) and I will aim to update this each week. Also, each student who gets their work on display will receive reward points and a postcard home (we do these each fortnight in our department).

Here's my takeaway homework display, with examples from last year...

You can see I've left plenty of space to add new pieces of work.

Here are my 'top 5' for this week...

 Here's a set of Top Trump cards, with lots of fractions -> decimal conversions on them. Not only did this student create their own cards, but they also included a set of instructions as to how to play the game and some 'points cards' to give out whilst playing the game for the winner of each round...nice!
This student created a quick 10 questions (all basic numeracy) and included the answers in the folded sheet of paper attached to the question sheet. I like this as it could be given to any other member of their class to do and they could check their answers after completing the questions.
 This student created this 'Year 9 Maths Exam'. They included 10 questions (all based on what we had been doing in class the previous few weeks before the xmas holidays [this is what impressed me most]) and even took the time to bind the paper with some colourful post-it type notes.
 The amount of effort shown here blew me away. This student created over 30 cue cards of key words that they had covered in their mathematics lessons both past and present. Each card had been made by sticking two bits of paper back to back. The key word on one side, its' definition on the other. Brilliant!
This student also exceeded my expectations by producing 2 pieces of homework in the first week. Both pieces were good enough to make my 'top 5' in their own right. The first is an excellent '2 truths and a lie' on probability tree diagrams that we have been covering, all worked out correctly, answer on the back too. The 2nd piece was a lovely '4 pics 1 word', with added 'flaps' to reveal letters to help people guess the word or take letters away from those given to narrow the choice of what letters could be in the word and also, colourful pictures (not just some copied off the Internet from existing words from the app).

In addition to the above, excellent pieces of work, I have some tweets that i will be putting up on my twitter display and a 'hexaflexagon' to add to the others on the display to show other students what they are (I always get asked what that one is). I've again been pleased with the reaction from my students to the concept of the takeaway homeworks and some students have already pre-planned what tasks they are going to do over this half term to ensure they've handed in at least 12 chillies by Feb half-term and at least 1 chilli handed in each week (these are my expectations).

I am doing a training session to staff later this half term on the takeaway homework concept and will be using these examples to show them what great work students can produce when given the option.

I do, though, still feel that I would balance the time when my students get the takeaway homeworks and when they get 'normal' homework tasks. This is because 1) I don't want the takeaway homeworks to lose their impact (students enjoy doing them currently) and 2) there is still a need for students to do the simple worksheets of practice questions and mymaths tasks. A happy balance of the two is needed. So, after half term, we may go back to 'normal' homeworks and then reintroduce the takeaway homeworks in term 3?!

If anyone has any other suggestions/comments on takeaway homeworks then please comment below, or contact me on twitter. I'll take all into consideration when planning my training session.

Thanks once again to @TeacherToolkit for the idea and his book.

New Year...New Displays

Happy New Year everyone! I know, I know...I'm a little late. I keep meaning to blog far more than I find the time for these days, but I will endeavour to increase the amount of posts this year, compared to last. I have a lot of exciting 'mathsy' things coming up this year and so I should have lots to share with everyone. Watch this space (please).

So, it's a new year, which means a new term and along with it...time to change my displays. Now, a favourite display of mine is, of course, the 'Year Problem'. I have used the same resources I used last year (uploaded to the TES by @c0mplexnumber --> Check out her display here (it's way far better than mine)! However, last year I put the display up in the corridor outside my classroom, hoping it'd attract attention from other classes and more students would join in the problem. As much as lots of people (including our Head) commented on it, most of the work was done by my classes. Plus, everytime one of my students got an answer I had to pop my head round the corner to right it on the display. This also meant my classes couldn't see (without going outside the classroom), which numbers had already been completed and which they cold still try and get. Given all the above, I decided to put the display in my classroom this year, and sent the ppt in Clarissa's resources round to all our tutor groups to attempt the puzzle in tutor time, sending solutions to me via their form tutors.
The puzzle has worked far better this year as it's in my classroom. My Y11 set 1 students have particularly been enthused by it, especially when we were working through trig graphs and they could use the inverse trig functions to get sin^-1(1) = 90 and tan^-1 (1) = 45 to get other numbers they had previously not found. Here was the display prior to it being introduced to my classes...

Here it is now (almost complete!)...

We only have the numbers 67 and 68 left to find...maybe they can't be done...?

All of the students that have put forward a solution will be getting reward points (1 for each correct solution).

The other display I put up this term (replacing my 'A Very Mathsy Xmas' display) was one I was inspired by on Twitter. I saw the following tweet over the xmas holidays. How I didn't see it beforehand I don't know! I went on over to Kerry Tait @misstait_85's blog to get more info as to what she put on her display and downloaded lots of the templates she put up on there too. Check it out here.

Here's my 'Finished?' display...

There are 7 tasks my students can choose from:

1) Multiplication - basic multiplication grids to practice their basic times tables
2) 5-a-day - a selection of's 5-a-day resources
3) Tweet Me - tweet templates from Kerry's blog. These have been very useful for my 'takeaway homeworks' too as kids can just get a quick template to use for their homework.
4) Plenary Sticks - one of my new resources, coming to the TES soon! More on this later.
5) Challenges - I took the nrich puzzles from my 'A Very Mathsy Xmas' display and put these in this folder
6) Learning Triangles - from Kerry's blog
7) Gimme 5 - from Kerry's blog

I think the display looks pretty cool, The advantage of it being on the room divider is that I can move it around the room too if needed to put it in more prominent spaces, or into my 'room in the side of my room, room' for students who have finished to have a bit of space to work in away from other students still working.

Finally, I've been shopping on one of my favourite websites again...

I've got myself some new A4 sized blackboards and chalkboard pens. I've started putting up revision posters for my Y11s (set 1 and set 4). Here's one I put together on expressing one number as a percentage of another...

The pens work on the windows too...they can be revising maths whilst in the playground (I'm getting pretty good at writing backwards)!