Saturday, 25 January 2014

Construct-a-Snowflake (much more than folding paper)!

Over the festive period (the last week before we broke up for Christmas) I was looking for activities I could give my classes to do that would not only engage them, but also keep their Mathematics skills going.

I stumbled across @c0mplexnumber's (Clarissa Grandi) resource on the TES...

The resource gets students to accurately construct a regular hexagon to then create a snowflake from.

The reason I like this resource so much is that it uses a lot of skills:

Using compasses to construct a circle of a given radius
Using compasses to construct a regular hexagon within the drawn circle
Knowledge of key words like 'radius', 'circumference' etc
Knowledge of regular Polygons - you could then discuss interior/exterior angles etc
Drawing lines of symmetry
Understanding Rotational Symmetry
using Tracing Paper

In my experience so far, students NEED to practise their use of compasses regularly as there's always a bunch of students in each class that seem to struggle with these skills. Additionally, the amount of students that seem to be unaware of how they can use tracing paper in their examinations to perform transformations always surprises me.

So, I ran the activity with my y8 and y9 classes. I demonstrated with the classes, both using my IWB/SMART notebook and by showing them on the table at the front of the class. The results were fantastic and have been stuck up on my classroom windows for everyone to enjoy from not only my room, but the school playground/reception area too!

You can download Clarissa's resource here:

Here's how my students' snowflakes look...

 You can see how detailed they are!
I have another window full of these and they look great when outside looking up to my classroom windows!

Mr Collins Table Sheets (all in one place)

Prior to starting my teaching career I was doing A LOT of private Mathematics tutoring in my local area and whilst doing so I created a set of 'Table Sheets' I used with my tutees to help them revise for their Mathematics GCSE examinations.

I first blogged about these on my GTP reflective journal blog at:

Since then they were picked up by Craig Barton on the TES and were put into their own collection on the website. See...

I have used these sheets in a variety of ways in my lessons and in revision sessions to help students revise for their examinations in a (hopefully) more engaging way than just giving them a past paper to work through.
I've had plenty of comments on the resources on the TES too and via Twitter from other teachers that have enjoyed using them and have even been getting students to create their own in class and swapping them around the room etc.

However, I have had a few requests for all the sheets to be available in one place rather than having to download each sheet individually. Most recently a request via Twitter asked if I had a Dropbox link to them. I didn't. I didn't even have the original files anywhere (that I could see). So, I've just gone through the collection on the TES and have downloaded them again so I have them for future use (I have them all printed and laminated)! I've now put them all in a compressed zip folder on my Dropbox account and you can access all the sheets here...

It might take a short while to download the compressed folder (I tried it a second ago), but then you should be able to extract ALL 34 files at once!

I hope this helps and with exam season looming hope they are of use when revising with your GCSE classes.
Let me know of how they have gone down with your students and how you've used them. Contact me on Twitter @mrprcollins or comment below.

For more ways I have used the sheets see:

2 0 1 4 challenge

Last year I did the following challenge with my classes that is based on the '4 fours challenge'...

Before I'd even got the chance to start thinking about this year's one I saw the following tweet:

In response to this tweet Clarissa Grandi (@c0mplexnumber) gave a link to her resource on the TES that she used last year to create her display - - >

I have previously used Magic Whiteboard ( to create the display, but this year I thought I'd have a change as I wanted to put the display on the wall outside my room and so downloaded Clarissa's resources (they're very good).

Here's how my display looks this year...

I have posed the challenge to my KS3 classes and my top set Y10 class (my Y11s have more pressing things to be worrying about)!

I have also sent round Clarissa's ppt to the rest of our department so it is more than just my classes' challenge.

Here's how we're getting on so far...

 1-10 are all done

11-20 all done too

21-30 all done too
 31-40 a few missing still

41-50 the latter ones still to do
 51-60 not many done

 the 60s are proving tricky
 and the 70s
 the late 80s are needing some thought
 not many 90s done either?

If you're doing the challenge too it'd be great to see how you're getting on. Tweet me @mrprcollins or comment below...

I don't know if all numbers 1-100 are achievable yet. I know there are defnitely more my classes could do. When I took my Y10 books in to mark the other day one of my students has started to go through all the numbers himself...pic to follow!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


Having read many excellent blog posts over the last few weeks on #nurture1314 I've decided to take some time out of the festivities to write my own. I'm a strong believer in reflecting on what I do in order to improve and there seems little better time to do so than on New Years Day 2014.
So, here (in no particular order) are my 13 reflections on 2013 and 14 things I hope to achieve in 2014.


1) Completing my NQT year. 2012-2013 saw me complete my NQT year at my previous school. I had fantastic support around me from my school, department, mentor and assessor and the year seemed to fly by with very few worries experienced along the way. Knowing what it's now like not having to be observed and collate evidence in order to prove that you are capable of teaching puts the year in perspective. I almost miss the fact that there's not someone constantly checking on your teaching and suggesting ways in which you could improve. It was very strange at the start of this school year when you're essentially left to get on with it and do the job you're now deemed capable of doing. I look back on my NQT year with fond memories and miss the free periods for planning etc and time to be able to observe colleagues.

2) #TMSurrey was a massive highlight for me as I (with the help of many colleagues) organised and ran my own TeachMeet back in May at my previous school. The experience of getting attendees/presenters for the event, sourcing some prizes, organising catering, booking the school hall, sorting out the ICT needed for the night etc and worrying that everything was going to go as planned and everyone would benefit from and enjoy the evening made the event worthwhile and is definitely something I will look to do again. I had the pleasure of then attending the next TeachMeet at my previous school (#TMEpsom) and sat back, enjoyed the presentations put on and even presented myself...all without the pressure and stress of organising the event myself! To read more about #TMSurrey go to...

3) I had my very first article published in the TES magazine on how I work with my TAs in class. Some of my resources had been mentioned in the magazine in the past due to my work on the TES Maths Panel, but this was the first time I had an article published personally in the magazine. I still have the issue here at home and was very proud to see my work alongside other professionals with far more experience and expertise. To read my article go to...

4) Twitter. This continues to be the best place (in my opinion) to get resources from other teachers/twitter accounts. The support from people on there, even indirectly by just reading blog posts and tweets from other teachers, allows you to see, when having a bad day, that you are not  alone and there are plenty of people out there struggling and coming through difficulties they have faced. Some highlights from Twitter in 2013 have been participating in #blogsync, reaching 2000 followers (whatever that means I don't actually really know, but it's nice to know a few people are looking at my ramblings), finding out about Jo Boaler's 'How to Learn Math' online course and finding out about TeachMeets and other initiatives like #poundlandpedagogy.

5) Getting my current job teaching Mathematics at the school I went to as a kid. This was a big highlight for me this year as it is something I was hoping to get when I left the school a couple of years ago having worked as a cover teacher. I left to do my teacher training and was intending on returning when an opportunity arose and the time was right. That opportunity came up in February and in September I started my first year back at the school working as a fully qualified teacher.

6) Moving house. My partner and I lived in separate locations for the most part of the school year 2012-2013 as she was doing her ITT up in Luton and I was working here, where we now live. We moved into a 2 bed flat at the end of June and was one of the best things we did this year. We are both within 30 minutes of our schools where we work and close to our families so couldn't be better placed and happier where we are.

7) Delivering my 1st training session to ITTs/NQTs. I was asked to deliver the 'numeracy across the curriculum' session to my school's ITTS and NQTs this past term and thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I am aiming to be an ITT/NQT mentor in the future when I have a bit more experience to offer and have settled into my school and so this opportunity was one that has definitely given me the appetite to continue this aspiration. To read more on the training session I delivered and to see all associated resources go to...

8) Being part of the team that won our 5-a-side football league. I play in a 5-a-side football league with my brother and his colleagues from his place of work every Tuesday evening. This season, having been the 'whipping boys' of the league for every season prior, we actually won the thing having beaten our closest rivals on the last day of the season. To top it all off, I was awarded the 'player of the season' by the leagues' officials (I was shocked, but not as perturbed as my brother was that I was given the award)!

9) Resources. I have been inspired by many of the people I follow on Twitter and by the resources I get to 'review' on the TES as part of being on the TES Maths Panel. As such I have created/modified/stolen many great resources this year and have used them with my classes who become the guinea pigs to finding which ones work best and how best to use them. Personally, my favourites have been my Mathematical Concept Cards, Mathematics 4 pics 1 word and 2 0 1 3 display. You can see all these resources and their relevant blog posts by clicking the links above.

10) my 'Superstar Djing'. I don't do as much of this as I used to, but every now and then I have a leavers' ball/freshers' ball/wedding/party to DJ and having this hobby outside of the normal day job keeps me with something to look forward to. I usually do 1 gig every couple of months on average and are mainly for family and friends. It allows me to keep up-to-date with the charts and current music, strangely this gives you a certain 'kudos' with the kids!

11) The Y6 Problem Solving Day that I ran and helped organise. This involved 6 of our primary schools coming to our school for a day full of mathematical puzzles and problems. The day went very very well and all feedback since has been very positive. I am very keen to showcase how good my school is and this gave me the ideal opportunity to do this to the kids that will hopefully be joining us in September. I will be doing a similar day for Y2 students later this school year. To read more on this go to...

12) Our holiday to Lapland. We've just got back from 4 days away in Levi, Lapland and this was my far one of the best holidays we have had. We decided to take the time to relax and get away for the holidays and I'm glad we did as we didn't have a 'holiday' in the Summer (mainly due to moving house) and this gave us the break we needed. We did no work, I didn't look at my phone/e-mails (apart from to check the Arsenal scores against West Ham and Newcastle) and enjoyed the time skiing and seeing the sites of the snowy fell village.

13) Best of the rest (that I can remember) brother got married, I moved into my new classroom (F13) and enjoyed setting it all up (see previous blog post [the only one I managed in September]), I had the 'stickers' on my Mini Cooper S replaced and freshened up, lots of golfing over the Summer holidays and of course Arsenal finished the year top of the Premier League table...when Arsenal are doing well everything else seems to go a lot more smoothly and with a lot less stress/hassle...long may it continue!


1) First and foremost to continue to be happy at home, at work, with family and friends and to be healthy throughout 2014. This will probably include eating more healthily and continuing to play football both on a Tuesday evening and on a Friday after-school at 'Staff Football'.

2) At the tail end of the past term I was accepted on an 'Aspiring Middle Leaders' course as part of my schools' partnership with local schools. This course starts on Monday 6th January at our 1st INSET of the year. Instead of taking part in my school's 'normal' INSET day I am going to have the 1st session of the course at one of our partner schools with the other teachers that are on the course. As part of the course I will be leading a working party at my school on 'Numeracy across the Curriculum'. I will have 4 colleagues working with me as part of the working party and hope this will be the 1st step on a ladder to taking on more responsibility in future. Watch out for blog posts (and reflections) on this course as it progresses.

3) I have also been put forward as my department's IT representative and as such am now on the school's IT development party and will be attending BETT2014 as our first 'task'. I'm very excited about going to BETT2014, the subsequent TeachMeet that will be held that Friday evening and finding out about all the different IT that could be used in my future teaching. There will undoubtedly be more on this as the year progresses!

4) Next school year 2014-2015 I hope to become an ITT/NQT mentor. I was considered for this this year, but was later told that I needed to be in my 3rd year of teaching (at least) to be eligible for the training for the role. Sep 2014 I will start my 3rd year of teaching and so hope that I will be able to undergo the training to then take on an ITT.

5) I would ideally like to blog more over the next 2 terms than I have been able to over the past term at school. I have found my workload go up considerably since completing my NQT year and starting my 100% timetable. The 6 periods of PPA I get a fortnight seem very few and far between and so I need to work smarter and not necessarily harder in order to find the time to do the blogging I have found extremely useful and rewarding.

6) I would like to continue to add to my YouTube Channel and the videos I have already put on there to support my students in the learning of their Mathematics. This is a time consuming job that I like doing, but just don't seem to find as much time for as I'd like. I know that my students benefit from the videos on there, and there have been specific requests from them as to the next videos I can produce for them - namely help with completing the square and quadratic sequences. So, I will aim to get the next lot of 'homework sheet videos' up by the Feb half term and then go from there.

7) Along the same route as the YouTube videos I have a plan for the 'numeracy across the curriculum' working party that I will be leading and hope to get my colleagues on board with the idea I have. There will be more on this in the future when I have ironed out a few things. For now, I'll keep the idea close to my chest and this point will serve as reminder for me in the future.

8) Begin to think about writing some sort of educational book. This is something that I really want to do. Having been inspired by the likes of @TeacherToolkit and @Maths_Master for their '100 Ideas for Outstanding Lessons' and 'The Magic of Pineapples' books respectively, I'd love to write a book about the teaching of Mathematics, ideas for lessons, perhaps a 'numeracy across the curriculum' book in line with what I'll be doing as part of the aspiring middle leaders course? If there's anyone out there of the book publishing kind that wants to get in touch you can contact me by commenting below or via Twitter: @mrprcollins (here's hoping).

9) Continue to improve my teaching of Mathematics for my students. This includes everything I do as a teacher: planning, marking, differentiation, assessment for learning, homework, communication, working with my TAs, etc etc. I will continue to use Twitter and the TES to source new ideas and resources. I will use the TeachMeets I am already planning on attending (TMBett2014 and TMSussex) to meet with other professionals and discuss ideas and, of course, I'll continue to work alongside my colleagues to improve the teaching and learning in our school.

10) Book a holiday for the Summer Holidays. Having enjoyed our holiday to Lapland so much we'll be booking a holiday for the summer holidays. This time...somewhere hot and probably for 10-14 days.

11) Try to get up to the Emirates Stadium to see Arsenal more than I have been able to over 2013.

12) Like Jo Boaler's 'How to Learn Math' online course I would like to take part in another course like this to improve my pedagogical knowledge and wider mathematical knowledge. Having signed up to Boaler's course over the summer of 2013 I now receive e-mails from Stanford University's online courses and have already seen a few that look interesting.

13) Organise and host the next #TMSurrey at my school.

14) Based on all of the realistic and don't try to do too much! Focus on what is important and what is needed and prioritise the tasks I have to do with what I would like to do. I believe in having lots of aspirations, but I also realise the need to curb some enthusiasm and save it for doing the day job!

Well, that's that - I will ensure I look back on this post over the course of the year to remind myself of the aspirations I have set and the success I enjoyed other 2013. I hope this post has been of interest of others and hope to continue to share ideas throughout 2014 that may be of use to others.

Happy New Year to everyone reading this - I hope you have a great 2014.

Mr Collins