Monday, 4 November 2013

Numeracy Across the Curriculum (ITT/NQT Session)

updated Nov 2016
I have been delivering a 'numeracy across the curriculum' session for my school's ITTs and NQTs for the past few years now.

For the session, I use the following Prezi and include a number of ideas for getting numeracy into other subject's lessons. These ideas I will explain further here to support the ITTs and NQTs at my school, and also for anyone else who is interested in those ideas that I presented...I hope they are of use!

*Feel free to flick through the Prezi I created for the session. Throughout the presentation: I reference the National Numeracy Organisation; briefly explained what numeracy was; give my colleagues a numeracy ninjas session to attempt and use this to highlight the different ways students will go about solving the same problems; suggest ways in which you could/should be using numeracy in lessons; provide examples of what could be used to help (data from SIMS and a guide to the levels in Mathematics and then present 12 ideas, all of which I will explain further here (due to having to whizz through them in the session)!*

Idea #1 - Scrabble Tiles
I wrote a blog post on these previously which can be seen by going to -->

The Scrabble Tiles can be used in any subject by getting students to find/create key words for the lesson. The numeracy element comes in by getting students to find the sum of the numbers on their tiles. They could then even multiply this by a 'number of the day'. You could get students to estimate the highest total score for a word in your subject, would it differ in other subjects? Why? You could award extra points to students if they come up with a key word for the particular topic you are teaching; you could even award a percentage of their score, for example students could get 10% extra if the word is related to the lesson.

Idea #2 - Use the Dates

This idea is particular useful in subjects like History and English where you have historical dates to refer to or historical figures/people to mention. Get students to work out how many years it has been since certain dates, since the death of historical people. In Geography you could ask students to find the number of years since an event happened. You could get students to work out the age of people who have died by giving them their year of birth/death; you could go as far as working out how old they were in years, months, days, hours etc and could discuss conversions between time here. You could ask students how many days it is until events in the future too. For example, in RE, religious festivals such as Divali, Christmas, Eid, Easter etc. In Design and Technology (or Art) you can get students to create Gantt Charts for their projects and work out the number of days allocated to certain aspects of their projects.

Here's an example of a Gantt Chart. These could be used for any subject where an extended project is used - or for revision purposes in terms of creating a revision timetable!

Idea #3 - Pie Chart of the lesson

This could be used to great effect as a plenary activity. Get students to draw a pie chart to sum up the lesson. This activity could be differentiated for students by either keeping the timings simple (i.e. half the lesson I...(half the pie chart), a quarter of the lesson I...(a quarter of the pie chart), an eighth of the lesson I...(a quarter of the pie chart) etc) or getting students to use smaller time intervals, i.e. I spent 4 minutes reflecting on my progress (so a 24 degree slice would be needed to represent this). In order to do this the students will need to divide the 360 degrees in a circle up accordingly; 1 minute of the lesson would be represented by a 6 degree slice of the pie chart.

Idea #4 - Graphing Progress

Again, as a plenary activity in a lesson, or perhaps even kept at the start of every new topic in their exercise books, students can create a suitable graph/chart to 'graph' their progress throughout a topic. Here they can practise their skills of drawing suitable axis, with a consistent scale, and plotting points on their graph across a given time period. You can discuss here with students the criteria that they'll put on their 'progress' axis, whether it be a grade, level or other scale. You could also discuss the benefits of one graph/chart over another.

Idea #5 - Top Trumps

I love top trumps cards and have used them in my lessons to help engage lower ability students in their learning. I have a particular set of 'animal substitution top trumps' cards that I use regularly when teaching the topic. How these can be used in other subjects is by using key people/events and getting students to create their own top trumps cards and assign people/events certain values based on some categories you/they decide upon. For example, in English, you could take all characters from a particular novel (lets say Of Mice and Men) and then get students to rate them on their: likability, nobility, strength etc. Students then assign each character a value for these categories based on what they have learnt about them by reading the novel and then they'd play the game of top trumps in the traditional manner. To make this even more numeracy related you could get students to create sums/calculations instead of just having a single number. This way students would have to first do the sum before deciding whose card was the winner. In Science, this can be done with the Elements, perhaps taking proton number, mass number, number of electrons etc as the categories.

Here's an example of the 'Animal Substitution Top Trumps' I use...

With these top trump cards you give students values for a, b and c to substitute into the expressions on the cards. I change the values throughout the activity (to negatives, decimals, fractions etc) and then award 'rewards'/'house points' for those students holding my favourite cards (the chicken, pig and hedgehog - just in case you were wondering).

You can download this resource on the TES by clicking on -->

Idea #6 - Line Ups (range, median etc)

This can be used in a number of subjects where your students have to measure anything. For example, if they need to measure their heights for a given activity, or perhaps their heart rates in PE. Get them to line up in ascending order and then ask the class to work out the range, median and mode of their heights, heart rates, hand spans, weights etc. In History, you could take this idea further to make a timeline out of students for a certain event, say World War I or II, hand out to them key events, or get them to create these themselves, and then get them to line up in ascending order. Then you could calculate time frames between certain events. I can see this working well in PE too for the speeds at which they complete certain events/tasks.

Idea #7 - Venn Diagrams

Venn Diagrams can be used to compare any 2 (or more) things. In English, they can be used to compare characters in a book. In Science, they can be used to compare elements, In PE, they can be used to compare sporting events. In History, they can be used to compare historical events. In Geography, they could be used to compare natural disasters. In Music, they can be used to compare songs/bands/artists. In Food, they can be used to compare recipes. And so on... . Venn Diagrams can be used as either a starter activity or a plenary. They can also be used for revision purposes if asked to 'compare and contrast...'.

I have a resource on the TES I use when introducing Venn Diagrams (or HCF and LCM) that acts as a starter activity to get students to compare...Batman and Superman or...Shrek and Donkey. Download and adapt them here...

Idea #8 - Calculator Stories
This idea stems from a resource I found on the TES, you can download that resource here -->

Here it is too...

As you can see by the image to the left, this involves using a calculator to perform certain calculations to which the answers can be read by turning the calculator upside down in the 'old school' fashion where kids would type 5318008 to spell out 'boobies'!

You can therefore take any piece of text, omit any words you can spell by typing in numbers on a calculator and then turning it upside down, and then create a sum for students to answer to reveal the word in the text. You could get students to create their own or prepare them for them as a short starter activity. This would get them reading some key information for your lesson whilst practising their calculator skills. Check whether your students have their calculators on them at all times or whether you'll need to borrow some; they should all have them with them in our school (as long as they have Mathematics on the same day as your lesson)!?

Idea #9 - Cash Reward/Behaviour Tax
an idea I recently read in @TeacherToolkit's #100ideas book...

The idea is that, perhaps as part of a behaviour management strategy, at the start of a lesson you give all students a certain amount of 'money'. I have some fake £10 notes printed out that I use with ratio activities, or you could use money from board games, print your own etc. Then, throughout the lesson, perhaps when giving out reward points or warnings (in line with your school's behaviour policy), you then issue a reward cash value or 'tax' to the students. This tax could be 10%/25% of the money they have at that time in the lesson, or could just be a determined amount, say £20; a discussion here about which would be the greater amount would be lovely! The students at the end of the lesson with the most money could then 'trade' them in for a small prize or even receive an additional reward point.
I have used raffle tickets in the past in this manner (give them out for good behaviour/work, take them away for poor behaviour) and then draw a ticket at the end of the lesson and that person wins a prize. Here you can discuss the probability of them winning, based on the number of raffle tickets they have!

Idea #10 - Bananas!
I have no idea why this activity is called 'bananas' but I love it is an idea I found through @TickTockMaths' '59 Starters' resource available on the TES. I blogged about it very recently at -->

Here's the idea...and this can be used in any subject...

You basically choose a few categories, related to your subject/lesson, and then pick any letter of the alphabet and get students to think of a key word for each category that begins with the chosen letter of the alphabet. How you get in some numeracy is that one of the categories could be 'a mathematical word' or 'a word to do with numeracy'. Get students to define their chosen word and say how/when they'd use it in their Mathematics lessons.

Idea #11 - Estimate the lesson

Estimation appears naturally in every day life. We estimate the amount of time it's going to take us to complete a journey, the amount of time we need to leave for certain tasks, the amount our shopping is going to amount to when we get to the check-out etc etc. For any subject there will be a number of occasions in your lessons where you can ask students to do some estimating. It could be the amount of time an activity is going to take them, a mark/score they believe they'll get on a test/assessment, the number of years since an event, the amount of an ingredient they will need for a recipe for a given number of people, an amount of liquid to use in an experiment, the length of wood to cut to make an object from etc etc. You could even, when asking students to estimate something related to your lesson, ask them to estimate the answer to a calculation i.e. estimate the answer to 34.98 + 23.1.

Idea #12 - Squares

I love squares. This is perhaps one of my favourite activities to do and there are so many variations of this activity that I probably need to write another blog post/book to explain them all...and even then they'll be other variations found too!

The activity 'squares' is based on a 6 by 6 dotted grid (or other square sized grid of your choosing) and players take it in turn to join two dots together, thus making 1 of the 4 sides of a square. The game continues with the other player taking their turn. Each time a square is created by having all 4 of its' sides complete the person wins that square.
How I make this more 'mathsy' is by having numbers in each 'square' prior to the start of each game, then, when a student wins a square they add that amount to their total. I've also done this when introducing algebra to get students to collect like terms (this would require letters and numbers to be placed in squares at the start).
This can be adapted for any subject by making a mega game of squares on the class whiteboard, or even better, on the IWB. Instead of writing numbers in the squares you can write questions for students to answer. So everytime they win a square they answer the question in the square they have won. The game is all about strategy and problem solving and is an enormous amount of fun!

Additionally, this can be done on a coordinate grid with a set of axes for students to call out coordinates before drawing their line (or their partners' chosen line). For example 'I want to join the points (2, 3) and (3,3). This variation could be used well in Geography when discussing maps and grid references.

Here's an extreme example of a 'squares' grid, write questions/numbers etc in the squares and each time a square is won the students answers that question or adds the number to their score!

So, that's all 12 ideas I present (briefly) in my numeracy across the curriculum session. I hope it gives you a better idea of each and ultimately, how you can build numeracy into your lessons (if you were struggling to find a way to do so). There are loads of ways you can adapt these ideas to suit your subject/students/lesson etc I hope I've given enough examples for specific subjects? If you try anything out do let me know by commenting below or tweeting me at @mrprcollins.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

59 starters (so far)

A month ago, whilst doing my regular resource reviews on the TES, I came across a resource that was that good I felt the need to blog about's been a while since I had that thought, but now (having found a few minutes between planning lessons for going back to school tomorrow) I'm ready to do so.

The resource is from Richard Tock (@TickTockMaths) (tes username: richardtock) and is quite simply a jam packed ppt with loads of starters for your Mathematics lessons.

You can download the resource from the TES here -->

The ppt includes random number/letter generators, you can randomly choose a starter task, you can assign your own favourite starter tasks on the menu screen by dragging the relevant numbered starter into the 'drag favourites here' section and much much more.

Here's the main menu...


As you can see the starter tasks are all differentiated by the colour coding that has been assigned to each task (key in top right of screen). By clicking on the 'pick one randomly' you can get a random starter task (make sure you enable macros when the ppt opens).

Some of my favourite starter tasks from the '59 starters' resource:

Starter #1 - what is special about this grid? I won't spoil this by revealing the answer, check it out yourself!
It'd be interesting to see what students would come up with here, and how they would go about trying to find the 'specialness' of the grid!
Starter #29 - bananas. Very good for literacy links. It is also very generic which allows it to be used as the starter in almost any lesson/subject. This could be adapted for all subjects, and even keep 'a mathematical word' to get a bit of numeracy in other subjects.
Starter #14 - What is the question? I like these tasks, especially as you can create any question to which the answer is on the screen, for almost any topic too. Click the number in the centre of the screen to randomly generate another!
Starter #33 - 4 pics 1 word. I created some of these last year, check them out by viewing my blog post at --> & download them from the TES by clicking -->
Starter #59 - What is the best number? Why? This links to the YouTube video clip of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory explaining what the actual best number is. Cue debate from your students!

I also like all the Dara O'Briain's School of Hard Sums questions as I have seen, and shown these episodes in class on a few occasions. Some of the questions are quite tricky, but fear not...Richard Tock has included all the answers!

So, download this resource and it will essentially cover your starters for your lessons if you are struggling to find inspiration, or anything to specifically link in to your main lesson's topic/theme. The tasks I have tried out with students so far have gone down really well and it allows you to get lessons off to a quick start by having something to think about on the board as students arrive, you collect h/w in etc etc.

Thanks to Richard Tock for uploading this resource to the TES and making it available to everyone!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Mathematics Loyalty Cards

I've been inspired this week due to a tweet from @MissKMcD about her 'Learning Skills Loyalty Card'. Here it is...


As with every great idea, is has been well and truly 'magpied' (I hope she doesn't mind)!

Therefore, please find below the new 'Mathematics Loyalty Card' that I'm planning on using with my Year 11 classes after half term...

 This is the front of the card :)

As you can see the card has 6 symbols on it, all of which will need to be 'achieved' if the student is to earn themselves a reward at the end of it. Now, as to what this reward will consist of I'm not yet sure. I've thought about a trip of some sort for those that manage to complete them. Some sort of 'prize' of the students choosing be it confectionery based or otherwise, but the main thing is that the reward at the end of the card needs to be something that is sought of by the individual student, otherwise I can't see the effort and attention being given to the tasks on the card.

This is how the back of the card looks - explaining each of the symbols on the front.

My thinking with each of the tasks is that they should be tasks that are more than achievable, but at the same time require a certain degree of effort on behalf of the student. The tasks will also help support the student in their revision leading up to their examinations. Now, our Y11s already have a 'passport' they have to get signed off by teachers in order to go their Y11 'prom'. So this is something I wanted to be almost separate from that to encourage them to do more independent study in Mathematics. Of course, if they attend after school sessions there is nothing to say that can't count towards their Y11 'passport' and their Mathematics Loyalty Card. The two can run alongside each other however!
I'm hoping that with the tasks on the card that it will instill a further sense of motivation in my students without making them go completely out of their way to try and achieve each task. For example, they will have weekly homework to do anyway, however, if they manage to get full marks on their homework they can stamp off that achievement on their Loyalty Card. They will get set mymaths tasks each fortnight to complete in their computer room lesson (as independent study), so all they will have to do is ensure they get 'green' results on these tasks (at least 5 of them). They all know when the after-school Mathematics sessions are - they just need to turn up to them. Some students are making good use of these, others (perhaps because they don't see the urgency yet, what with the examinations being in June) could do with attending these.

Therefore, I'm hoping to use the Loyalty Cards as an added incentive. The tasks that require students to produce a piece of work to go on display and show evidence of having revised are the only 2 that may require them to go out of their way and do 'extra'. The 'level up' task is something that should happen naturally if all other tasks are completed and attempted.

This idea is very much in its infancy. I will pass it by my colleagues next week and see what they say and then introduce the idea to my students. I'll obviously be tweeting this link out too and hope to get some responses from my Twitter followers as to the 'reward' at the end of the card, how best to use them etc.

When I do give them out I will use my 'Mr Collins likes this' stamp to stamp each symbol when completed. Here's one I made (stamped) earlier...

The stamp fits perfectly in each symbol (when printed A5 size)

New CGP Revision Guides

About a month ago, I was approached by the lovely people at CGP and asked if I would like some copies of their latest revision guides for Mathematics to try out with my students. Having used the books myself when I was revising for my GCSEs, and having seen students use them over the past few years of my teaching career, I jumped at the chance to see the latest revision guides on offer.

I was very kindly sent out a copy of their Higher Edexcel (other exam boards are available) revision guide for Mathematics GCSE, together with the accompanying exam practice workbook. In addition, I was sent 15 copies of the foundation tier revision guides to give to my year 10 students (and 1 of the accompanying exam practice workbooks too). This, I was very excited about, and I tried to think of how best to introduce the revision guides to the students and get their feedback on them, whilst ensuring they knew how best to use the guides.
In my experience so far, revision guides are offered to students by schools (for a small fee), but the students are not actually told how they should be using them to revise; they're merely handed out and assumed they know how to get on and use them.

So, I decided to create a short questionnaire to give to the students to fill in as they were given their revision guide; they filled in the questionnaire as they were familiarising themselves. The aim of the questionnaire is not only to get their feedback on the revision guides but also to allow them to see all the different aspects of the book, to get them to notice certain parts of the guides and suggest ways in which they could use them.

Here's the questionnaire I gave my students...

The questionnaire targeted certain aspects of the book, asked for their first impressions and gave them an opportunity to mention anything else they thought of when looking through the guides.

Before I gave the questionnaires and the revision guides out to my students I was completely honest with them as to why they were being given the revision guides and the fact they didn't have to pay for them. I explained about my Mathematics blog and that's why I was offered the books. This also covered the fact that other students may question why my students were being given them and they weren't (I also passed them by my HoD). Having spoken to my HoD she said that if my students took to them that they were something we could order in for other students if they wanted one too.

On handing out the books there was an air of excitement about the students (it's always nice to be given something for nothing). As I was removing the packaging from the books and handing them out to the students it was like Christmas had come early. The comments about the look and feel of the new books flew around the classroom and they were soon imprinting their names on the inside front covers to take ownership of their new revision guides. As they filled in their questionnaires my TA and I went around the room directing them to certain parts of the guides as per the questions given to them.

As I was creating the questionnaires I looked through the guides myself, picking out the key aspects of the books that students needed to be aware of in order to benefit as much as they could from them. I like the fact that next to each sub-heading/topic there is a GCSE grade so that the students know what grade they are working at. Each page in the revision guide has worked examples with short, precise steps to solving certain problems. The examples are clear and in a language that students can understand; there is no unnecessary jargon. At the bottom of each page there are exam style questions for the students to attempt, with a guide as to how many marks they would get for that question and again, a grade attached to the question. At the end of each 'chapter' there is a review section that allows students to answer brief questions on each topic covered in that chapter, and a useful 'tick box' for them to tick if they are happy they have covered the topic. At the front of the guides the contents have been upgraded to include (for the modular specification [going out]) what 'unit' the topic is covered on. The index does exactly what it should do. When speaking to my HoD, when I showed her the revision guides and spoke about what I had planned with the questionnaire, she commented on the fact that students don't necessarily know the difference between the contents and the index section and that it was a good idea to highlight both and how they could be used.
One key change from the guides I used when I was a teenager is the online version of the revision guides that you get free having purchased the physical form. On the inside front page (where the students were putting their names) there is a unique online code to use with the CGP online library (more about this later).

Back to my students...

Their 1st impressions were really positive, comments such as 'smells nice', 'its very professional', 'very smart, well laid out and easy to use' and 'very helpful' were amongst those given. When it came to the next 3 questions, asking them to find a page in the book using the contents page, asking if they liked the grades next to each question and whether the examples were clear (when asked to look at a specific one on a given page) all of my students responded 'yes' to each question. When it came to looking at the revision pages (see below for an example) the students commented on the fact that they were 'helpful to see if you get questions right', 'good because you can test yourself' and 'nicely laid out...and easily readable'. They found that the exam-style questions were good because they could see the grade for the question.
In terms of the exam-style questions the answers to these are in the backs of the revision guides, however for full solutions to these questions, with additional workings and guidance you have to register online and use the online version to see these, although once registered and having input your unique code, you can download (and therefore print out) a copy of these fully worked solutions.
Finally, when asked if there was anything else they wanted to say about the books, unusually the 1 key thing they thought should be improved was the fact that the page numbers should be at the bottom of the page and not the top! So, if that's the only improvement they think the revision guides need then CGP have done a very good job with their latest revision guides indeed.

Here are some examples of the inside pages from the revision guides (taken from the CGP website)...

On this example page (on circles) you can see the sub-headings are clear and have the grade next to them. The examples and key facts are highlighted in the usual CGP style. At the bottom of the page you see the 'exam-style questions' with grade and marks.
On the revision pages you see each topic in that 'chapter'/section tested, with a 'tick box' for students to use when they feel they have mastered the topic.

The online library...

Using the unique code on the inside cover of the revision guides allows you access to the revision guide content online. You have to register an account with the CGP online website, but this takes literally a few minutes and as of yet I haven't received any spam from having signed up to this. With each different revision guide/exam practice workbook comes a different set of online resources.

If you entered the code from one of the revision guides you get:

  • an online version of your revision guide
  • the exam-style questions full worked solutions - this is a pdf document that you can either view online or download, save and print etc

If you entered the code from one of the exam practice workbooks you get:

  • an online version of the exam practice workbook
  • practice paper video solutions - a set of online videos that take you through the past paper questions in the workbook
  • worked solutions to the questions in the workbook, rather than just the 'answers' that appear at the back of the book - similar to the above you can download these, save and print them.

In addition, when you open an account you get an online pdf that gives you examples/ideas of HOW to revise and go about your revision for your GCSEs. Useful for students. This is a pdf that you can download too.


What's happened since I gave out the revision guides?

Some of my students have taken their revision guides home and keep them there. However, the majority of the class either, just like they do with their exercise book, bring their revision guide to each of our lessons or they keep the revision guide at school on my bookshelf where I keep my classes' exercise books. I like the fact that they have the choice here and I was impressed by how many of them keep bringing the revision guides in each lesson without me saying so. I now see students looking up certain topics we are doing in class. For example, when the class enters and are getting their equipment out I usually have the title on the board. I have seen students flicking through their revision guides to look up the title (topic) so it's then there, ready, in front of them for the lesson, should they need a bit of extra support/guidance.

The cost?

The revision guides and exam practice workbooks are only £2 each when bought through the school. I've already spoken to my HoD and school shop assistant (who orders in the revision guides/workbooks for our students) and it is something that we may look to do when the 'exam season' looms closer.

My students certainly are impressed by their new revision guides, the fact that they are appearing in our lessons still, a month after they were handed out, suggests they are working and the students are using them proactively. Also, I have 5 students (in my top set Year 11 class) that are sitting their GCSE examinations in November and they are using the higher tier revision guide in class to assist with their revision for their examinations - they're all aiming to get their A*s in November!

I'm very grateful to the people at CGP for offering me these books. I didn't have to write this blog post about them, but feel that as the books were kindly offered, and my students were as grateful for them as I was, that it was only right I said thank you and spread the word as to the usefulness of the books.

So...CGP, thank you on behalf of my Year 10 students and, of course, me too!