Thursday, 25 April 2013

Displays for Learning

This week I was lucky enough to be able to visit one of the other local secondary schools to my school and take part in a NQT training morning. Part of the morning involved us taking a 'learning walk' around the school. We were 'toured' round by one of the 6th formers and saw lots of great lessons taking place.
Prior to the 'learning walks' taking place we were asked to look out for: assessment; differentiation and 'displays for learning'. The latter was one I was quite interested in as I like to think I present my classroom in an engaging way to my students and often change my displays dependant on my students' work etc. The school had recently changed all of its displays too and so there were lots of brand new displays on show.

As I walked round I was trying to take in all the ideas that the teachers were using. There were rooms where they had a 'Twitter board', much like the one I have in my classroom. Some rooms used the magic whiteboards ( that I use in my room. We saw classroom doors that had speech bubbles on them with quotes or questions for students to be thinking about (presumably whilst queueing for the class in the corridor. The most impressive displays I saw were in MFL and I asked our tour guide if I could take some photos and here they are...

 Being the massive geek that I am it is easy to see why I chose to take pictures of these particular displays...

Angry Birds!
 Space Invaders!

Clearly a lot of time and effort have gone into these displays and they have given me ideas for future displays I can create in my own classroom!

#poundlandpedagogy Eggs!

These have been on my 'wish list' ever since I read some tweets from other #poundlandpedagogy teachers on Twitter. I can specifically remember a tweet from @WallaceIsabella.

However, my recent trips to 'Pound World' (see have been unsuccessful in finding these. So, in a desire to get some of these I searched on the web and found them just as cheap on Ebay and then on the following website
They arrived this week!

I got 72 of them so I can use different sets for different classes...

After snipping the bit of plastic holding each half together, and filing the sharp bits off they are now ready to use in class tomorrow. Here's what I plan on doing with them...

As a starter for my bottom set year 10 class I have cut up sets of 4 different numbers and put these in each of 12 eggs (1 for each student + a few spare). At the start of the lesson I will get students to pick an egg from a box and then get them to do the following with their 4 numbers:

1) using any mathematical operation, and each of the numbers once only, make the number 24
2) arrange the numbers to make the largest number possible
3) arrange the 4 numbers in any way you like and then write that number in words
4) find the largest sum you can from adding 2 of the numbers to the other 2 numbers (this was a question that they got wrong in their recent foundation mock examination)

So, for the number in the picture on the left...

1) (8-4)x(4+2)
2) 8442
3) 4842 = four thousand eight hundred and forty two
4) 84 + 42 = 126 or 82 + 44 = 126

Then, for my second set year 10s, who have been doing trigonometry the past few lessons, they have a trig question each in their eggs where they will have to find a missing length of a right-angled triangle. After they have found their own missing length I will get them to peer assess with their partner to check their partners work and have theirs checked before we then go onto looking at finding a missing angle!

 Pick an egg...any egg
10 ticks trigonometry w/sheet cut up into individual questions (1 in each egg).
I'll also be putting the 4 numbers in the eggs too for them to try and make the number 24 as with the year 10 class above. I may also get them to multiply 2 2-digit numbers from their 4 too.

I'm looking forward to seeing the reaction of the students tomorrow when they are presented with these at the start of the lesson.

I have lots of other ideas as to how I can use these in class too which I'll post about as and when I use them in class!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


Continuing my experimentation with #poundlandpedagogy I was looking for a more practical way of using my 'Memo Cube' than just using them as pieces of paper to write notes on. I'd used them in tutor time as scrap pieces of paper to jot down our word of the week examples on, or the numeracy puzzles we do, but wanted to find a 'better' use for them.

So, I decided to use them in a tessellations lesson with my Year 10 set 5 class, using a lesson that @kutrahmoore had previously done.

Before getting into the main activity (using the 'Memo Cube' notes) I introduced the topic of tessellations and referred to the class' previous learning on interior and exterior angles of polygons using this resource that I found on the TES. After briefly going over why the 3 main shapes (square, equilateral triangle and regular hexagon) tessellate I gave the class the w/sheet (slide 12) to complete. The questions on this sheet are very similar to those that come up in the examination papers and so I saw this as good practice for the class. I then advanced through the rest of the slides showing to the class how they can make their own tessellations and how MC Escher created his famous artworks. The class particularly liked how the tessellations were formed and then created and the prepared ppt that you can download above is very well presented to show these.

Then, I introduced the class to how they were going to create their own tessellations. This was where @kutrahmoore's activity came in.

The class were given a couple of the 'Memo Cube' notes and were asked to draw a line from the top of the note to the bottom. It could be any sort of line they liked, straight, 'zigzag', wobbly etc. Then they were asked to draw a line from the left hand side of the note to the right hand side in a similar fashion. This then split their piece of paper into 4 sections.
They then had to number the 4 original corners of the square (from left to right, top to bottom, 1, 2, 3 and 4).

They then had something that looked like...(here's the one I used to model the activity to the class)...

After the class had drawn the 2 lines, and numbered the corners 1-4 they were then asked to cut out their 4 sections. This can be seen in the bottom of the 3 images here.

These 4 sections needed to then be rearranged as per the slide shown below...

This then creates the shape the students then use for their tessellations. Once stuck together, front and back, it will look something like...

 All they needed to do next was to draw around their shape onto a piece of A3 paper and then keep going to create their tessellations.

Some of the work that was produced was fantastic! We didn't quite have enough time for the majority of students to fill their pieces of A3 paper and then colour them in appropriately to then put up on display. So, they'll continue with them next lesson.

Here's an idea of what they managed to create as the lesson progressed...


Maths Vegas! (Negative Numbers)

Today my students and I went to 'Maths Vegas'!

In a series of lessons we have had on looking at negative numbers, adding and subtracting them and multiplying/dividing with negatives etc I found this resource on the TES that I thought would work perfectly to see how much the class had learnt, and what we needed to do more work on!

At the start of the lesson, before we started the 'Maths Vegas' activity I got the class to do a little starter activity that @reflectivemaths had come up with after a conversation with @ASTsupportAAli - a spin on the traditional 'Noughts and Crosses' game.
Continuning my experimentation with #poundlandpedagogy the class were given a bunch of my coloured square pieces of paper (Memo Cube) that I got from 'Pound World' to work on and in pairs they played the game - to see more info on the game see @reflectivemath's blog post here.

I used the time the class were playing the 'Noughts and Crosses' game to set up a table on the board that would be used for the main activity - 'Maths Vegas'. I went round each group and gave them the equipment they'd need and asked each for a suitable team name for the lesson.
Each group then had a mini whiteboard, marker and a visual representation of £50 that they would use in the activity.

Each group had the following equipment to use in the lesson.

As I was going round the class getting team names and giving out equipment the 'buzz' about what was going to happen started to generate. I was putting team names on the board 1 by 1 and so the other groups were naturally drawn towards these and what other groups were calling themselves. I then added to one of the groups an extra £10 to use in the lesson before anything had started. This naturally drew a few questions as to why one group had all of a sudden got more money to use when we hadn't even started!

As I addressed the class to explain the activity I immediately had a hand-up...'Why have they got more money sir?' The answer was simple, that group were the only group to have chosen a Mathematically themed team name for their group... 'Rhombus'. At this point, and as I was giving the reason, brilliantly, a few of the class kinda of said (as I was saying it) 'because it's a mathematical name'. Clearly I'd awarded extra points for this in the past! :)

I then explained that the activity would work as follows:

Each team had £50 (or in the case of 'Rhombus' £60) to 'play' with throughout the lesson.
They would be given a question to which they had to place a 'stake' on. They could place a minimum of £1 and a maximum of £10 on each question.
If as a group they then answered the question correctly their stake got added to their amount, if they got the question wrong the 'stake' was taken off their amount. So, if starting with £50 and placing £10 on the 1st question they'd have £60 if correct and £40 if they got it wrong.
The class were given 30 seconds on each question, after seeing the topic of the question (see resource) to decide on their stake.
The class were given 1 minute to answer each question once revealed.
The class had to hold up their whiteboards, with the answers on, at the same time to avoid any group/s writing down the answers of others.

Before then starting the activity, and taking each group's 1st stake I asked each group to assign certain roles. They needed one person to be the person who writes the group's answer on the whiteboard, one person to assign the 'stake' for each round, one person to agree on the group's final answer and the rest of the group would help work out the answers in each 'round'.

As the activity started there was a good 'buzz' about the classroom, each group engaged in trying to answer the questions. The groups worked well with one another and the competitive element behind how much each group was 'staking' on each question and therefore how much each group could have at the end of each round was fantastic. At points, the class got too excitable and so I decided to take off money for those groups that I had to wait for for far too long. This stopped some low level disruption and allowed us to move on through the questions much quicker than we were initially.

At the end of the 8 'rounds' we managed to get through I put the groups final scores on the board. These were determined by the amount of money they had gained/lost throughout the lesson. Every team lost money, which from an ethical 'gambling' point was what I wanted. At this point I used this fact to emphasise the problems with placing 'bets' and 'stakes' etc and made it clear that it was not something that I was trying to encourage, but educating them on instead.
The group that then 'won' at 'Maths Vegas' was the group that lost the least amount of money - happily, this was the group dubbed 'Arsenal'! :)
I also then gave some VIVOs (rewards) to those teams that didn't pick up any fines throughout the lesson.

Here's how the table looked at the end of the lesson...

You'll see the 'Thoughts on Crosses' activity examples I gave on the left. The main 'Maths Vegas' table on the rest of the board.

I would highly recommend doing this activity and using the resource above. The resource covers adding and subtracting negatives, ordering negative numbers (and finding the median of them), multiplying with negatives, dividing with negatives, magic squares with negative numbers, negative coordinates and more!

Monday, 22 April 2013

A Printing Epiphany!

Last week I was given information that has since made things so much easier! It is almost embarrassing to admit the fact that I didn't know about what I am going to talk about, but then when speaking to others in the department it seems I wasn't alone in my lack of knowledge!

I'll set the scene...

Have you ever needed to print from a pdf document or a word document and only wanted a particular page printed? You want this page printed 2 to a page side-by-side. Sometimes your pdf document or word document only contains 1 page, which in word is fine as you can just select all and create a duplicate 2nd page identical to the 1st to print these two pages on one page. However, if you have a pdf, which you can't edit - how do you get this 1 page printed as 2 pages side-by-side? If you already know the answer to this question, I envy you and your brilliance!

Until last week, I have been 'going around the houses' trying to get around this problem. One of my pet hates as a teacher is when student's books have paper hanging out the end of them. So, when I need to print off w/sheets for them I often print the pages 2 to a page and then guillotine them off so they can easily be stuck in without having to stick out the ends of their exercise books. This for pdfs and word docs that have more than 1 copy of the page you need is fine, or if you want to print 2 pages on the same sheet etc. However, when I've needed to print just that single page pdf document I've had to either print that 1 page on a full piece of A4 and then trim to size, or I've just printed that 1 page as a 'multiple' pages without anything next to it - it's then the size I want, but it doesn't save any paper and I end up saving the blank half for scrap paper to use in form time!

So, here comes the is possible to print a single page pdf doc or even to pick a particular page in a pdf/word doc 2 to a page,and here's how...

Say you want to print this 2nd page from this 3 page pdf document. You want it 2 sheets to a single page. So the page is landscape and you have the same page printed side by side (2 of the same sheet on a single piece of paper)

All you need to do is this...In the 'Print' options box (pictured) you type into the 'Pages' box the page number and then a comma and then the same page number again! So, in my example, if I wanted to print page 2 side-by-side on the same piece of paper I would type '2, 2' in the 'Pages' box. I then print as 'multiple' like you would normally and you'll see from the 'print preview' picture how it then prints - just as I have always wanted!

Like I say, this to a lot of people will be nothing new, but for me (and I suspect others that didn't previously know this) it has blown my mind! It has saved me so much time already this week in terms of chopping everything up using the guillotine, or having to copy and paste word doc pages to create 2 of the same page to print etc.

Thanks go to Miss Jackson for this amazing piece of knowledge!

I am still wondering how on earth I have gone all this time without knowing this. Prior to teaching, I worked in a whole host of offices doing admin stuff, data analysis etc and regularly was needing to print. I'm now into my 4th year of working in a school and, again, have never come across this before! Crazy!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

April #blogsync - "Progress in my classroom? How it is made and how I know it."

This is a post in response to this month's #blogsync topic of "Progress in my classroom? How it is made and how I know it." To see all other posts in this month's #blogsync go to:

As this month's topic is all about progress in my classroom it has allowed me to reflect on what and how I have been doing with a number of my classes over the course of the year and to see whether indeed my classes are making progress.
As a lot of posts in this month's #blogsync have already pointed out there is not just progress to be had in a single lesson, but also over a longer, more sustained, period of time. It is the latter that I will talk about here as I feel for some (if not all) of my groups this is more important.

I will discuss 3 different ways in which I have seen progress with my classes, using 3 different methods of recording such progress. The first will be with my low-ability (bottom set) year 8 classes, the second will be with my year 9 top set and the third and final example will be from my year 10 set 2 class that are sitting the first of their GCSE Mathematics examination in June this year.

Year 8s (both set 5s on either side of the year) - Times Tables!
When I was given both of the set 5 year 8 classes to teach this year there was one thing that became apparent fairly early on - they were really weak with their times tables. This was mentioned in all of the students' reports at the end of year 7 by their class teacher and was evident in my 1st few lessons with both groups. So, in an attempt to make my students become better with these very important basics I decided to continually test them on their times tables and give them regular practice with them. How I do this is by getting them each, throughout our lessons, to complete the Interactive Times Tables 'game' that I found on the TES. The resource can be downloaded here. Now, I don't do this every lesson with the classes as too much of anything gets stale, but we do them at least once I week, on average, I would say. The students love doing them and often request to do them/ask if we will be doing them in lesson.
The advantage I have of having the bottom sets is that I only have 9 students in one set and 12 in the other. This means that the task does not interrupt our 'normal' lesson activities. I simply, whilst the class are working on the task given in that particular lesson, randomly call them up to the IWB to do the times tables 'game'. The game gives each student 1 minute to answer as many times tables (up to 12 x 12) as they can. Each question gives 6 possible answers to chose from, which for the set 5s is nicely differentiated. At the end of the minute I record their scores in my markbook and then call the next student up until all have had a go.
Then, crucial to the success of the task for this long a time, I give VIVOs (our schools rewards) to all those students that have improved their score by 3 or more, and then give the top 3 an extra VIVO each. This 'progress' is clear for all to see and I read out and congratulate those students that have made the 3 or more points progress from the previous go.

I have created a simple spreadsheet from all the lessons we did this in up to December 2012 and you can see a print screen of the results below...

I have highlighted 'student 4' above as this is the weakest student I teach in either of the 2 sets. This student didn't get a single times table correct in the minute given in his first ever go at it. Since then, the student is regularly getting over 10 a minute correct. Now, some might say that the familiarity with the task would naturally aid this, but for him it is a massive step forward. He has gained confidence with not only his times tables, but getting up in front of his peers and not being afraid to make mistakes, or be getting a lower score than others - and the rest of the class are surprisingly supportive of him and his quest to improve his score. I then created a graph of the class' average scores and you can see how this has improved since the start of the year. There are some dips here and there, and Mathematics is no straight line of progression from start to finish. Some of these 'dips' happen straight after school-holidays and this is a good excuse to remind the students of the need to keep practising them.

This, for my lower set year 8 classes is great progress. Especially as it was the one key thing they needed to improve on from year 7. They have all made progress over time, no matter how small and I'm starting to see now a greater ability for them to perform other tasks, and at a much higher speed than before. For example, when working out the area of rectangles they are able to relate this to the times tables 'game'.

Year 9 - Student Topic Trackers
In order for me to show progress in my Year 9 set 1 lessons I regularly have used my student topic trackers. I posted previously on the use of these here.

The topic trackers are a great way of showing 'progress' with the students' confidence from the start of the lesson to the end. On the topic trackers I split out all of the learning objectives for the series of lessons I will teach them on that topic. The lesson objectives progress in terms of their levels as you go down the sheet. For each objective there is then a 'before lesson', 'after lesson' and 'after revision' section for them to rate (on a scale of 1-4) their confidence with the lesson objective/s. This lesson based progress-o-meter is a good way of me seeing if the students have understood and feel more confident than they did at the start of the lesson.

Equally, from topic to topic, it is a good way of me seeing the progress they are making throughout the year. At the end of each topic I get the students to give themselves a level based on the topic trackers and the lesson objectives they feel most confident in and their respective levels. Then, from topic to topic I record, again in my markbook, the levels both the students give themselves and the levels I give them based on end of topic tests and h/w scores.

The topic trackers are then used for the students revision to go over those lesson objectives that they perhaps weren't so confident with. I can see these coming into play much nearer the end of the year when they will sit a GCSE linear paper prior to being setted for Year 10.

Here's an image of one of the topic trackers...

There have been a few suggestions from members of staff at my school as to how I could improve the use of these. The first would be to take their books in and do my 'teacher's comment' half-way through the topic, to make the feedback to them more useful perhaps as they go throughout the topic and be a bit more formative. The second is that they take quite a while to sit down and do the teacher's comments in the first place, so for every topic to cover in a year this could become too much. They do indeed take a lot of marking, is it worth it - yes, I think it is. Could the process be sped up somehow - I don't know yet. I have recently stopped using them with the class due to some topics we have covered being merely a 'refresher' lesson as the class would have covered it in previous year groups and so the topic tracker hardly felt relevant here. However, for those 'new' topics, or those that require a series of lessons to teach I will still continue to use them as I feel they are a good way of the students seeing the progress they are making - even if, as some would surely argue, it is only with their confidence and no concrete evidence of them actually making progress with the objectives. However, I would counter that by saying the 'after lesson' scale gets filled in in the 'plenary' part of our lessons having tested the students knowledge with an appropriate task. My teacher's comment and level are then based on the class work throughout the topic/objectives and their end of topic tests.

Year 10 - GCSE Mock Grades
In order to see if my Year 10s are making progress I have relied mainly on them completing GCSE mock papers and comparing the grades with their targets.
The class, to date, have done 2 official mock exams (Unit 1 [non-calc]) - 1 in January (straight after the holidays) and 1 at the end of February. They will sit one soon too by doing the Unit 2 paper (Calc), which will give me a further indication of their progress to date.
These results have given me a good idea of progress that has been made (if any) and the 'gap' still to close to their target grades.

Following the class' February mock, which was done in examination style conditions with the rest of the year group in the school hall, I showed them this notebook slide at the start of the lesson where I gave them their results back...

The 3 bar charts show (from left to right) the results from the January mock, the results from the February mock, and the class' target grades.

From the January mock the progress the class made was clear to see. We went from having 9 Ds, 18 Cs and 3 Bs to...6 Ds, 16 Cs and 8 Bs. There is still a notable jump to get the class to their target grades, but these are targets for the end of Y11! Still, I obviously want them to get their by June!

In that same lesson I gave out 'awards' for those students that had 'progressed' in some way from the January mock. The certificates/awards I gave out can be downloaded from my TES resources here. I gave those students that had progressed from getting a D grade to a C an award, those that went from a C to a B and those students that had continually showed progress in both the mock papers and all tests we had completed in class. There were plenty of students that received certificates in these lessons and this in itself showed me that the class have made progress (over the year).

I hope this blog post has been of use to others in how I have tried to show progress that my classes are making. I feel that learning Mathematics is definitely a 'marathon and not a sprint'. Sometimes students don't understand a concept or topic for years and then all of a sudden 'click' with it and get it. Sometimes we have to go back in our learning and make mistakes in order to progress.

Whether we, as teachers, are able to show that our students are making progress every 20 minutes of our lessons is something I'm not sure can actually be done. Can we show that progress is being made over time - Yes!

This is how progress has been made in (some of) my classes and I hope I have shown how I know it.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

'Mathematical Concept Wall', the cards keep coming in!

At the start of the year I blogged about my 'Mathematics Concept Wall' and since it has become one of my most viewed posts this year. You can see the blog post here.

I also posted some examples of the Concept Wall Cards my students had produced here and here.

Well, since these posts I have had a whole host of other cards handed into me by my students. Some were done as an extension task for a cover lesson when I was on one of my county's NQT sessions, others were just done by my students in their own time. So, here's some other examples to add to the already excellent collection I have up on my classroom wall...

 I love the randomness of this one. Oh, and the 'clickity clack! clickity clack!'

Not strictly mathematical this one, but then neither was the 'Optimus Prime' card in the previous post!

I will definitely do this 'display' in coming years, refreshing the topics to choose from etc. My students have responded really well to the idea and enjoy creating their cards.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Circle Theorems & Hula Hoops!!

Inspired by @MrReddyMaths' guest blog post by @adrianjohnst on his blog my Y10 class have been creating Circle Theorems using Hula Hoops bought at 'Pound World' today!!

To see Adrian's blog post click

To visit the 'Pound World' website go to This lesson/blog post is part of my experimentation with #poundlandpedagogy.

This was our 1st lesson back after the Easter holidays and with a few personnel changes to the set due to recent mock results I felt it would be a good idea to revise over a few topics this week to get the class back into the swing of things and to provide links to the topics in the Unit 2 paper that we still need to cover. Another reason for looking at Circle Theorems again is because I didn't feel the class learnt enough when we covered them the first time round, the lesson, for whatever reason, didn't seem to sink in and so we needed to do more work here - the question/s that have come up in mock papers the class have done weren't fantastically well answered, as a whole group.

So, I started the lesson by using my Mathematics 4 pics 1 word Circle Theorems resource - see my previous blog post (there's a link in this post to my resource on the TES available for download). I then, using the words in the starter activity went over the circle theorems on the board. I also had, on the tables prior to the class coming in, a sheet of QR Codes that linked to my Circle Theorem videos on my YouTube Channel (mrcollinsmaths). The idea then was for the class to use the videos and the notes I had written on the board to recreate one of the Circle Theorems. I asked groups to volunteer for a particular circle theorem at this point and this created a bit of competition with certain groups wanting to do certain Theorems over others. Once the groups had their circle theorems assigned I showed them (in the style of 'Blue Peter') one I had made early to model what it was I was expecting. Having thought about it now, I should have shown them Mr Reddy's blog post (darn hindsight)!

So, here's one I made earlier...

I used a few of my other purchases at 'Pound World' including the 'Memo Cube' 'post-its' (however these aren't sticky) and the masking tape to secure the rods.

The rods I got from our awesome D&T department. I luckily caught one of the NQT teachers in the car park and told him what I was planning to do - we then went to the D&T workshops and sliced up some wooden rods they had lying around so I could use these as the tangents, chords, radii, diameters etc! These were a great help and it pays to know all the departments in your school - you never know when you're going to need to call on them for help!

This 'model' then gave the class the basis of what I was looking for. After a short health and safety warning about splinters I gave the groups their hula hoop, wooden rods and sellotape/masking tape etc. At this point I had quite a few of our faculty in the room as I had invited them in if they were free to see what we were doing (and give me a hand). A few of them went and found us some extra sellotape as the masking tape wasn't great for holding the parts in place. Nonetheless, look what the class created...

 Angles drawn from the same point
 Angles drawn from the same chord
Angle in a semi-circle (angle at the circumference is half the angle at the centre)

 Cyclic Quadrilateral (opposite angles = 180 degrees)

Angle at the circumference is half the angle at the centre

After the class had been given 15-20 minutes to complete their circle theorem hula hoops I asked one representative from each group to explain to the rest of the class what circle theorem they had done, explain the relative parts of each etc. I then collected them all in and handed out to the class a set of circle theorem past paper questions from the '' website. The class then used my YouTube video and all the Theorems (now on the floor of the wall at the front of the class) to answer the questions. I was particularly impressed at this point that some of the class had got our previous lessons notes out of their exercise books to refer to too!

Here's all of them at the front of the class & the QR Codes sheet and questions I gave the class...

 All of them, at the front as a reference - I just need to 'hang'/ put these up on one of the walls in the room for future use!
Here's the QR Code sheet I made the class. The centre QR Code links to the playlist on my YouTube Channel with all the explanations and some past paper question solutions. The 6 QR Codes round the centre one link to a specific theorem.

I (and I hope the class) really enjoyed this lesson. I feel they were much more secure with their knowledge of circle theorems at the end of the lesson having gone over the answers to the questions in the 'plenary'.
I know need some more Hula Hoops to do a session on Venn Diagrams (as suggested by a few of my Twitter followers following my #poundlandpedagogy tweets)!

Similar Triangles

As I've hinted at in another recent post, I have been part of an exciting project the TES Maths Panel have been putting together - 'Topic Progressions'.

These documents have already been a great resource to me and my teaching and I have recently used the Shape - Similar Shapes 'Topic Progression' to find resources/questions for my teaching of this topic. One of the resources I therefore subsequently used from the TES was this resource -->

If you click on the link in the resource it will bring up the 'Teach Maths' website ( On this page of the site it details an activity involving 24 similar triangles and is a lovely open ended task to give to students.

So, with the resource saved, the teacher notes read and the documents printed I was ready to go for my Y9 set 1 lesson on similarity of shapes. This would be the class' 1st lesson on the topic and as such I left the activity as open as possible to see what learning they may have had previously or thoughts they already had towards the task. As suggested on the site, I gave each group (my classes are all sat in groups now) a print out of the 24 triangles and got them to 'group'/'classify' the triangles as they saw best.
The interesting thing here is that, of the 5 groups of 6/7 students, 4 groups chose to classify the triangles by grouping them into 'equilateral', 'isosceles', 'right-angle' and 'scalene' triangles. There was one group that grouped them by size i.e. small triangles, middle sized triangles and large triangles. After this class discussion on how each group had classified the 24 triangles I asked them what they knew about similar shapes. One of my students then said that they were shapes where all the angles were the same. This then lead to us discussing that the similar shapes are enlargements of one another and that we can use the scale factor to work out missing lengths.

The class then had their task set - they were to find all 3 lengths of each triangle using their knowledge of similarity. They were not permitted the use of rulers or protractors but I hinted at placing triangles on top of one another to see if their angles were the same (and therefore they were similar triangles). I set the groups off on the task and this is how they started...

I gave each group one of my A1 sized magic whiteboard sheets to work on (these are available from They were given a good 10-15 minutes to attempt to find the missing lengths of the triangles with little input from me needed at this stage.
 Here's one of the groups attempt at beginning to sort out the triangles into similar triangles groupings

After about 10-15 minutes, when the groups were getting to the point where they were missing a few triangles' lengths, and they had done the perhaps, 'easier' ones I hinted that there were 8 groups of 3 similar triangles at this should help them work out which 3 triangles go together to work out the missing lengths.

At the end of the lesson I showed the class the correct lengths of all the 24 triangles and they marked their work as a group. The majority of groups got between 15-17 out of the 24 correct. One group got 22 correct. So, there's a little more work we need to do as a class on similarity and we'll be continuing with this next week.

I'd definitely recommend running this activity to others and I'll probably be using this with my Y10's too as Similarity and Congruence is a topic that comes up in both Unit 1 and 2 of the METHODS in Mathematics exam they are currently sitting - it'll be a chance for us to revise and reinforce our previous learning earlier in the year!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Masking Tape & Magic Squares

Today was the 1st day back after the Easter Holidays and this gave me a chance to put into good use my purchases as part of my experimentation with #poundlandpedagogy. For more details on this see my previous post -

So, today with my Y8 set 5 class (one of them) I decided to use the 'masking tape' that I bought. I created a large 3 by 3 grid on the floor of the class underneath my IWB. Here's how it looked...

I started the lesson, as you can see by the image on my IWB, by getting the class to do a few things involving a 100 square. Namely, I got them to choose any 3 numbers of their choosing (>10) and add them up and then I asked them to pick a 2-digit number, reverse the digits, subtract the smaller from the larger number and then look at what the lowest possible answer was and why.
After this brief starter to bed them back into school life I drew a 3 by 3 grid on the board and asked them to experiment with it and try and create a 'Magic Square'. A square where all the rows, columns and diagonals sum to the same amount. I gave them free choice of what numbers to use and provided support (along with my 2 LSAs) whilst they were attempting this. The class found this quite challenging but none the less they were all able to access the task. Whilst the class did this they each had a go at our usual 'times tables challenge'. Using the IWB times tables 'game' I found off the TES they each had a minute to get as many correct answers as they could. I record these scores on a regular basis and the class love doing it and request it each lesson if I haven't mentioned it!

After the class had had a go at trying to create a 'Magic Square', and they had each completed their times tables challenge, I stopped them and prepared them for the next task.

I wrote the numbers 1 to 9 on the whiteboard and gave them each one of my number tiles from 1 to 9. I then told them that they would now try to create a 'Magic Square' using themselves and the tiles they had been given. They were to use the 3 by 3 grid I had mapped out on the class floor using the masking tape to do this. We spoke briefly about the significance of the numbers, the fact the number 5 would be a great choice for the 1st number to go in the 'middle' of the 'Magic Square' and then looked at the pairs of the remaining numbers.

The next part was over to them and I pretty much just stood back and let them get on with trying to move themselves, and each other to make the 9 numbers fit so that it created a 'Magic Square'. It was good at this point to see those students who took the lead and were telling others where to stand.

They didn't quite get to the full solution, they were close...but needed a bit more guidance, so we went through this on the table at the back of the class...

I'm lucky enough to have had exactly 9 students in my class to do this activity with. However, I can see it being run in class with different groups as a competition. Perhaps set up, using your masking tape, 3 different 3 by 3 grids around the room. Split the class into 3 teams and get them to see which team can get the solution the quickest?! I'm sure there will be more ways I can use the masking tape - any suggestions are more than welcome! #poundlandpedagogy

Friday, 12 April 2013

Mathematics 4 pics 1 word - 'Intro to Algebra' & 'Polygons' starters

As promised in a previous Mathematics 4 pics 1 word post, I have now finished my 'Intro to Algebra' 4 pics 1 word starter resource and I've also done a 'Polygons' one ready for going over Interior/Exterior angles of polygons with my Y10s in the next few weeks!

Both of these resources are available on my TES resources at:

Intro to Algebra:


Here are a few examples of what's included in these 4 pics 1 word starters, first up - the Intro to Algebra one...

A nice easy one to get started, got to love the Bert & Ernie pic!
Any artists out there will get this one straight away?!

And here are a few examples from the 'Polygons' 4 pics 1 word starter (this one has 10 different slides in it)...

This one features 'Paul' the Octopus that predicted the World Cup results!
Bit trickier?
This will hopefully lead in to teaching about the int/ext angles of polygons!
Another one of my favourites, possibly too easy though?

You can download ALL of my Mathematics 4 pics 1 word resources on my TES resources or just by searching for 'Maths 4 pics 1 word', like this.
Alternatively, if you'd like to see all the 4 pics 1 words blog posts then click on the '4pics1word' label in the word cloud to the left of my blog page, like this.