Monday, 2 December 2013

Santa's Reindeer Resource

One of my favourite festive resources is this 'Santa's Reindeer' resource from Michael Sharman

You can download this resource from the TES by clicking on the above link.

Here's a print screen of the resource...

The idea of the activity is that each of Santa's Reindeer make a series of noises associated with their number. Each noise corresponds to a number fact (multiples, factors, greater than, lower than etc) and students have to work out which Reindeer is which number between 1-16.

I also give my students a grid of all 16 numbers and the number facts they need to use to help them formalise their workings. They use the grid as a tick sheet to tick off whether the numbers adhere to the number facts or not.

This resource is one of many featured in the TES Mathematics 'Maths at Christmas' collection.

You can view the full collection at:

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Communicating with your TAs (#TMEpsom)

Last Monday (25/11/13) I attended the 2nd #TeachMeet held @glynschoolepsom (my previous school). After hosting #TMSurrey last year, I was able to relax this year and enjoy #TMEpsom that was hosted by Guy Jones @questionbeggar.

As part of the event, I decided to present on how we go about communicating with our TAs/HLTAs. I only presented for about 2 minutes and so I hope by writing in more detail about this here that some unanswered questions will be answered.

My presentation at #TMEpsom was really simple and revolved around the purple folders we use for each of our classes where we have TA/HLTA support.

I have one of these folders for each of 4 of my classes where I receive regular support for the students in my class.

The folders are managed by my TAs and they update the folders if/when we run out of daily sheets, when IEPs are updated and class details change. As a teacher, all we have to update in the folders are our seating plans and our schemes of work for that module/topic etc.

Each of my purple folders contain the following information:

Class List with all SEN details highlighted
Students Photos
Seating Plans
Schemes of Work
Current Levels/Grades for students on the Code of Practice
A Daily Tracker for teachers/TAs to fill in
Reading Levels and other relevant data on the students

Before each lesson I have with the class, and when TA/HLTA support is given, I fill in the teacher part of the daily tracker sheets. The daily tracker sheet is a simple table with 3 columns, 1 for the date, 1 for the teachers' instructions for the TA and 1 for the TA's feedback. All I write in the table is the date/period of that lesson and then how I wish my TA/HLTA to support me with the class in that particular lesson. This consists of a few sentences explaining what we're doing that lesson, with whom I wish them to work (or withdraw from the lesson to work with in a small group) plus other details as necessary.

At the start of each lesson the idea is that my TAs pick up the folder for that class from my desk and look at what I have written on the daily sheets for that lesson. Then, at the end of the lesson, they fill their part of the daily tracker sheet in by commenting on how the students they worked with progressed that lesson and comment on any other things they picked up on in the lesson. This could be that certain students did/didn't complete certain activities, whether they noticed students struggle on a particular concept or had a common misconception etc.

The great thing about the purple folders is that it allows me to communicate with my TAs without having to find those 5-10 minutes in between lessons or after lessons to catch up on what you'll be doing or how things went; too often in the past I have tried to have these conversations at the start/end of lessons and rarely had the time to really let my TAs know what it is I'd like them to do or how the students they were working with got on.

By using the purple folders I now see, prior to each lesson, the comments from previous lessons and the progress of those students my TAs/HLTAs were working closely with. This then feeds into my planning for subsequent lessons and it may be that I ask my TA to work with other students they noticed didn't do so well in previous lessons, or take certain students out to catch them up on work they may have missed out on or need further support with. It also means my TAs can see what it is I want them to support me with before the lesson rather than having a couple of minutes notice of what they're expected to do. And, when there is a class where I am supported by 2 or 3 different TAs/HLTAs, they can be informed of how those students they are to work with have progressed in previous lessons.
Another thing I like about the folders is that I have all the class' IEPs and details of their particular SENs to hand. Usually these details are kept on the school's shared drives and finding such information can take a while. This way, the details are there when planning each lesson and they can easily be referred to when planning new activities and ensuring I am using particular overlays on ppts, grouping certain students together, changing seating plans and making sure those students that need to be sat in particular places can be etc etc.

The purple folders are something my school have been trialling since the end of last year, I believe, and so they are something I have been introduced to this year. As such, getting used to these have taken some time and remembering to fill them in as soon as possible for my TAs to access has taken time to get in the routine of doing. We have found some problems with them based around the fact that my TAs still don't always get enough notice prior to lessons as to what they need to be doing with the class, especially if they are asked to take a small group out. The prior warning needed for doing these 'withdrawls' means the TAs need time to prepare resources perhaps, or just find a room/space they can go with the students they are being asked to take out and work with. So, in addition to the folders, if I know I'd like my TAs to take certain students out I try to e-mail them the day before the lesson (at least) so they have time to prepare.

The folders are working to improve the communication between my TAs and I and they provide great evidence of the support and provision we are giving to certain students and my classes in general. If anyone whats any further information about our purple folders then get in touch by commenting below or contact me on Twitter @mrprcollins

Advent Calendar Resource

Earlier this year, in February, I found the following resource (by dannytheref [@dannytheref])...

The only problem with this was that I was 2 months too late! However, having remembered the resource, I relocated it earlier this week with the intention of using it this month in the lead up to Christmas for some festive starter activities to kick off my Mathematics lessons.

If you haven't seen/used the resource before you can download it from the TES by clicking on the link above. Here's what the resource includes...

The home slide is complete with a festive jingle. You then click on the doors to reveal the starter task/activity to do.

I recommend reading the instructions and answers document that accompanies the resource to fully understand all of the different activities on offer. These could be done on a daily basis with your classes or just randomly depending on when/how much you want to use this in your lessons!

My favourites are:

The product game - the resource takes you to a website to play this
Heads or Tails - classic!
'One of these things is not like the other thing' - sung by the Cookie Monster...what's not to love!
Pointless - brilliant game
The boys vs girls head to head - the accompanying music is brilliant

I know I'll be using this in my lessons this month. If you do too let me know how the resource goes down and don't forget to leave a comment for dannytheref on his resource too!

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!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Year 6 Problem Solving Day

Right in the middle of the first half term of the school year I helped host, and organise, a Year 6 Problem Solving Day for my school's local primary schools. In all, we invited 6 of our local primaries and each brought with them 4 students and 1 member of staff. The day ran fantastically well with all schools feeding back positively on the day and in the subsequent online survey that I sent round. However, without the help and support of our mathematics faculty assistant and my fellow Mathematics teachers the day wouldn't have even gone ahead.

The only downside to running events such as these is the amount of organisation and planning the day takes. For this event we had to (in no particular order):

contact our local primaries, get the names of the students/staff attending
send out details of the day a week before the day itself
book the school's study centre to host the event
enlist the help of our Year 9 prefects to support the Year 6 students on the day
advertise the event in our school's bulletin/the website and in staff briefings
print and write certificates for each student who attended/prefect that supported the event
print out answer booklets for each primary school to use on the day
print off name badges for all involved
arrange parking spaces for the primary school's minibuses
arrange refreshments for our visitors
get a member of SLT to come and award the certificates at the end of the day
ensure everyone knew of fire and safety procedures should we have to use them
seek permission for use of photographs for the school's website
plan all the activities for the day
plan cover for the lessons my colleague and I missed due to running the day...

...and I'm sure there are loads more things that our faculty assistant did behind the scenes that I am unaware of!

However, despite the mammoth task of planning the event (and the time it took up) it was well worth while. I planned all the activities and I used resources I had found on the TES or from tweets that I had seen.
On the day itself the activities were arranged in 6 different bases, each with a different activity. Our primary schools then rotated round the bases in a carousel of activities type style. The schools had 20 minutes to attempt the activity at each base, they wrote down their answer in their answer booklets, reset the activity to how they found it and then advanced to the next base. Each school therefore got to attempt each activity and the results were collated at the end and points awarded for the successful completion of each task.
Each student was then awarded with their certificate at the end of the day and the winners were then announced.

The activities (with all links to the resources used) are listed below, with a brief description of each activity and how/where I found them...

The Factors and Multiples Puzzle @nrichmaths

The Factors and Multiples Puzzle, from the nrich website is one that I have used in class before and set students as a homework task. Each time the students, regardless of age, have found the puzzle challenging and only a few have been able to complete it. The answer (seen in the picture inserted to the left) was uploaded to Twitter by @SmileMaths and they reminded me of the activity when i was looking for inspiration on my Twitter time line. Only 1 school managed to complete the puzzle in the 20 minutes allowed. For this 'base' I took a photo of each teams completed (or partially completed) puzzle and then worked out how many points to award based on the numbers being in the correct row/column. A total of 25 points available!

The Marshmallow Challenge

The Marshmallow Challenge was the most popular 'base' of the day and was an idea I saw tweeted by @ArcherEdTech. The picture to the left was the laminated instructions I gave to the students arriving at the base. I had a lot of our Year 9 students positioned on this base to help measure and cut out 1m of string and tape and to ensure the structure was freestanding at the end of the 20 minutes with the marshmallow on the top. The height was recorded. The winning height was awarded 5 points, 2nd 3 points and 3rd 1 point.
Lost Labels
RSS Centre for Statistical Education

A resource I found on the TES whilst doing my usual resource reviews. When I was planning the activities for the day I wanted to get a mixture of activities that covered the 4 main areas of Mathematics (number, algebra, shape space and measure and data handling). However, the algebra activity was left out as the Year 6 students may not have come across much of this as of yet in their learning of Mathematics. N.B. the day was for any Year 6 student, not necessarily those that were 'gifted and talented' in Mathematics. So, the lost labels task asked students to complete the labels on the axes of a couple of bar charts, just based on a few clues. I like how this task leads to a lot of interpretation of bar charts, decisions as to the scale of the axes etc. 5 points were awarded for each successfully labelled bar chart (10 points on offer here in total)

Murder Mystery

Another resource I found on the TES when doing my resource reviews and when looking for end of term activities at the end of last year. Now, this task was the only one where we had any sort of EBI feedback on. The activity just took too long and therefore not all schools were able to give an answer to this one and had to 'guess' based on the amount they were able to complete. So, in future, if I were to use these sorts of activities again, I would ensure that the activity was completed over 2 bases and therefore allowed more time. Nonetheless, I still think this is a fantastic resource, that I have used with Y7-10 students at the end of term. The task, in an hour lesson, has taken anywhere from 10-60 minutes depending on the ability of the group and the number of students in each group. I think I was hoping that with each school having 4 students and 1 member of staff that if each took one 'clue' and answered it that they'd be able to do it in the time allowed. I may have underestimated this a bit?!

Triangles Mystery

Another idea/activity I saw on my Twitter time line over the Summer, this time tweeted out by @stevenstrogatz. What I really liked about this activity is that it was in the New York Times and this, for me, gave the puzzle a certain gravitas that I feel the students/staff appreciated as they saw it as a puzzle that was trying to be solved elsewhere in the world, and not something I had just thought up/found for them alone. There is more that can be done with this task rather than just the simple nature that I presented it due to the 20 minutes allowed.
It could form the basis of a mathematical investigation to give to students in KS3?
Mathematical Treasure Hunt
Smile Cards

The final activity that I included was one that had been used in the Year 6 Problem Solving Days done in years past. The day had previously been run by a colleague who retired at the end of last school year. I worked with her when working as a cover supervisor and she helped me loads in terms of allowing me to observe her lessons, help plan and run revision sessions for year 11s and I now teach in the room she vacated. I owe a lot to her in terms of my own development and felt that it was important that the day still had something of hers in it. She had left behind her boxes of resources that she used on the problem solving days (there's a year 2 one coming up later in the year) and from these I searched through and used the 'base' numbers she had on each table, the answer booklets and of course, this resource. The resource itself was one from the SMILE cards series, involving students going on a mathematical treasure hunt around the study centre, finding cards with mathematical problems and then finding the card with the answer to that problem on before attempting the problem on that card. The students wrote down the path between the cards and then were awarded points on the correct answer/path. The students enjoyed searching round the study centre for the clues and some of the year 9 prefects helped locate those that I put in obscure places.

In preparing the day I created this ppt with all the resources/instructions etc I needed to print/laminate for the day. If you would like to use them just click the link below (and of course the links above).

My resources -->

As I have said above, the day was a great success. The day ran smoothly, mainly due to the organisation that had gone before it (especially on behalf of our faculty assistant). I was a bit nervy at the start of the day that everyone would turn up and the day itself would go to plan. These worries soon disappeared and the best part of the day was seeing the students attempting the puzzles, asking questions, posing questions to questions asked, talking to staff from our primary schools and enjoying the solving of the problems that were set. There was a definite 'buzz' around the study centre that morning and all students were fully engaged in trying to solve the puzzles/problems given to them. The day ran on time, awards were handed out by one of our SLT members and the winning school took home with them the remaining bag of marshmallows that weren't used in the challenge! They were thrilled!

Since the day itself one of my colleagues has held a meeting with all our local primary schools and the feedback he got on the day was great. He said that staff that didn't even attend the Problem Solving Day were speaking very highly of it due to the fact that the year 6 students that had been on the day went back to their respective schools and were clearly telling their other teachers all about it. This is not only fantastic news for those of us that helped run and organise the day, but also for our school as it puts out a very positive message about the school. We have now had requests for similar days to be run in the future, in addition to the year 6 and year 2 problem solving days we already put on. So, hopefully, it is something we can look to offer on a more regular basis, in different disguises, for other year groups in our primaries, or for groups of students that are enthusiastic about Mathematics.

I, despite the panic and stress of ensuring everything was prepared for the day, thoroughly enjoyed the event and would recommend running a similar event to anyone that is thinking about doing so. I like liaising with our primary schools, the chance to speak to the students who could well be coming to our school in September 2014 and the opportunity to do something 'different' for a few days in the school calendar.

Many thanks again to our faculty assistant (she knows who she is), my colleagues that helped run the day and those that came down (in their free periods) to see what was going on. To the year 9 prefects for supporting and of course to all the year 6 students and their teachers for attending and making the day as good as I could have hoped.

Monday, 28 October 2013

#blogsync Marking: WWW, EBI & INT

This month's blogsync topic is all about marking and all entries can be seen by going to There are already some fantastic entries, none of which I will try to emulate here, but I will give my account of the marking expectations at my school and how I have gone about this task over the past half term.

Follow the #blogsync conversations on Twitter using #blogsync.

On arrival at my school this September I was presented with my very own stamper to use when marking my students' exercise books/work. It is very similar to my own stamper I bought from last year and used when marking...with one slight difference. It wasn't just a What Went Well (WWW) and Even Better If (EBI) stamper but also an 'I Need To (INT) stamper. Here it is...

The significance of the INT part of the stamper is to ensure there is input from the student as to how they are going to action their EBIs that I write based on their work that I mark. The theory is that you get to see a conversation in the students' exercise books where a continuous loop happens with feedback being given, students responding as to how they're going to action their EBIs, evidence of this progress being made in their subsequent work, future feedback on their work with further points to action and so on.

It has taken a while to get used to this system and it is something I have had to not only train myself with, but also my students. When returning students marked work (mainly their homework tasks) I will ask them to look over their WWW and EBI comments and then get them to fill in their INTs. Now this has meant a lot of prodding and guidance as to what constitutes a good 'INT statement' and what is merely copying the EBI that I wrote. For instance, if I have said that a student has added and subtracted fractions well and it'd be EBI they could multiply and divide fractions their INT shouldn't say 'I need to multiply and divide fractions', but must say something along the lines of how they are going to action the EBI. For example, they could put that they are going to look up the topic on mymaths or Manga High. They could say they will stay behind after school on Friday and go to the 'Maths Club' to ask for help. They could look up the topic in one of my YouTube videos, they could ask their tutor (if they are lucky enough to have one). They could ask me for help in/after a lesson. They could look up the topic in a text book etc etc.

Here's an example of the stamper, my WWW and EBI (on a mixed C/B grade h/w sheet) and the students INT comment.

After the students have filled in their INTs 2 things then happen: The first is that when I next take their books in I will check their previous stamp and initial their INT if I feel it is appropriate. If I feel it is not full enough I will suggest something they could do, or provide a bit of extra guidance. For example...

In the below students' h/w he wrote that he needed to look up converting between squared units - fair enough. However, between this time and the next h/w sheet there was no evidence of him having progressed here. So, I wrote a few notes underneath his next stamp and then, following this, he made some additional notes in the back of his book and will look to get this area correct next time round.

This was the original h/w sheet. Here I mark the questions and just tick them if they are correct, cross if not. Sometimes I'll write the correct answers into those that are incorrect, time depending.
I then feedback using the stamper. We are told to try and make the WWW and EBI as objective specific as possible, for example WWW: you are able to add and subtract fractions [grade/level], EBI: you were able to multiply and divide fractions [grade/level]. However, in practice, sometimes this is difficult and I end up putting more vague comments like 'well done, you've got everything correct'. It's these times (when a student does everything well) that it is hard to find an EBI and hard to list everything they did well.

You can see here though that the student identified the need to 'learn how to convert between squared units'

In a following h/w I noticed, having looked back at previous stamps and comments, that the student still hadn't got the converting between squared/cubed units question correct. So, in addition to my usual comments I added a bit of extra feedback and guidance to support the student further.

What resulted was their own notes in the back of their book...

(I'm fully aware this pic is upside down, I have changed its' orientation and tried to insert it multiple times now, but still it wants to stay this way up...Grr)

I'm now awaiting the next h/w sheet to see if they have made progress with this question...fingers crossed.

The 2nd thing that happens after I have done my WWW and EBI marking and the students have done their INTs is that they use their fortnightly computer room lesson to independently go through, look up, and research topics that they need to work on. This could be using mymaths, Manga High, my YouTube channel, BBC bitesize, google, Wolfram Alpha, textbooks etc etc. These fortnightly lessons are used really well to get students to focus on their INTs so they don't merely write them and forget about them.

As a teacher, I am expected to mark each class' books once a fortnight and so each of my class' books have now got somewhere between 3 and 4 stamps in, depending on which week I take them in to mark. Now, I do quite like marking my students books, without it I wouldn't have anywhere near as clear a picture as I do of their work and progress to date. I find it can be therapeutic, but also quite stressful when time doesn't allow you to go through the WWW and EBIs as I'd wish. In order to combat this I have tried to get my students to do their own WWW/EBI and INT feedback. However, there are some students that do not do this so well and so this becomes almost a waste of time, plus I don't get to look over that particular bit of work as much as I would have if I marked it myself.

Plus, there's the same problem when they get full marks...what do they put for their EBI and INT?!

Personally, with the expectations on marking and the inevitability that a member of staff will come into check the books of the class that I perhaps haven't marked as much as others, I feel getting into marking routines is the only way around the workload. It's taken me the best part of the 7 and a half week half term to get into this routine and I now take in each class' books when they have handed in their h/w to me. I take the class' books home that night, mark them, and return them the next day. This means that I mark 3 evenings a week, usually for an hour each time, and then the rest of my time is spent planning lessons/resources etc.

However, there is one 'curve ball' to this Year 11's past GCSE papers. Since the start of the year our Year 11s have now completed 2 GCSE past papers in class as assessments that we use to track their grades and progress. They have had 1 non-calc and 1 calc paper and these, of course, have needed marking too. These papers are marked question-by-question, a total given, a grade and then students fill in AfL sheets in their feedback lesson. In addition, to support my students further, I have been trying to create 'solution videos' for the questions on these papers and sticking them on my YouTube channel. All this takes time, but in the long run (I hope) will be beneficial to my students.

All the marks and grades from these h/w sheets, papers, marked work etc go into my teacher's planner and I keep track here of how my students are doing, the progress they are making and I can see from this where interventions are needed. I'm quite traditional in the respect of using my planner as my markbook, but I'll also use an excel spreadsheet for past GCSE papers so I can analyse question-by-question how my classes have done on the papers and certain questions.

Here's a pic of one of my Year 11 classes markbooks so far this year...

You can see here the 5 h/w sheets the class have already had (all out of 20) and the 2 GCSE past papers they have sat.

The h/w sheets I use are all mixed C/B grade topics that I give out each week on a non-calc/calc rotation basis. These sheets allow me to ensure my students are keeping the basic skills to achieve each of these grades fresh, whilst we cover over topics in class. I am also planning on creating tutorial videos to go along side these to go up on my YouTube channel to give them another avenue for their INTs, i.e. INT 'look up question (x) on Mr Collins' YouTube Channel, do the practice questions and check my answers'.

If you would like to download these sheets they can be found on my TES resources at:

I hope this post goes someway to contributing to the debate on marking. By no means do I suggest that this is the way to do it and that I am doing everything I should be. I'm fully aware there are things I can do better with my feedback being more specific at times and I still need to improve the use of the INT part of the stamps. In terms of checking students in class work this comes from my use of AfL and my plenaries. I do look over the students' classwork when I mark their books and if I see something of worth I'll add a comment, equally, if something is seriously wrong I'll comment on it too, sometimes using the stamper, sometimes just freestyling!

I still use my 'Mr Collins likes this' stamp too, when I can see a student has persevered or done a particularly good amount of work/made improvements (like the example shown).

Remember, check out the other posts in this months #blogsync by going to

Mathematical Concept Cards 2: The New Batch

Having been recently reminded about an activity I did in class last year by Mr Cavadino (see his blog post at I decided to try out the activity with some of my new classes in the last week of this half term.

To see my original post on the idea and discover the origins of it click on the below link:

So, here's the new display, with the best of the concept cards selected to go up here...

And here's some of my favourites that have been created this year by my students...

 I think this has to be my favourite one?
 Must be a fan of Dead or Alive?

I thought this one was hilarious - especially when Miley made an appearance!
 Maybe some confusions here as to what 'expressions' are, but the effort was commendable. Most other students in this class chose 'volume' and drew speakers etc
 Being a Marvel geek I loved this one, if only there were some Loci examples around it to go with it though...
 Nice use of both words here

 I wonder why the 'hundredth' was the one that was working out?
 Inspired by the examples I showed the class from last year.
 The best pie shop in the world...3.14 (brilliant)

 This one definitely thought outside the box

I am impressed with the creativity that came out of the classes I ran the activity with. There are a few I am waiting on with my Year 10 class too, so there may be some more to follow. Watch this space.