Saturday, 22 February 2014

Y11 Higher Homework Sheets

*Updated 12th Aug 2014*
Prior to starting at my school in September last year I was asked by my HoD to find/produce some homework sheets aimed at the higher tier students in Y11.
Now, there are plenty of these type of revision sheets available on the TES, but I wanted to set up my own to cover certain topics I feel are important to achieve certain grades and have some sheets that would be both non-calculator and calculator.

So, I initially set up some grade C-B sheets to give to our higher tier Y11 students. The aim here was that they would be given a sheet a week and the sheets alternated between non-calculator homeworks and calculator homeworks. The odd numbered sheets therefore became non-calc and the even numbers calc h/ws. The other aim with these sheets was that they would re-jog the memories of students who may have forgotten certain topics they had learnt last year and would allow them to keep these C/B grade topics fresh in their minds as they learnt the higher graded topics in class.

To access the sheets click this link ---> (where you can download them from my TES resources). All answers included!

The sheets get slightly harder as they progress and I have seen this reflected in the marks my students achieved on the sheets as the weeks progressed. So, it was difficult to see if progression was being made as the questions were getting harder as the sheet numbers increased. However, for the top end students the marks did not fluctuate much.

I gave these sheets to both my top set Y11 class and my 3rd set class (D/C borderline). I found that the 3rd set class struggled with the sheets somewhat and that some of the topics they had not been taught before. So, in order to support them, I started to create videos that I uploaded to my YouTube Channel (mrcollinsmaths). I have now created a 'tutorial' video for each of the topics that appear on the non-calc (odd numbered) sheets. On these videos I go through the topic, briefly, and then give students example questions to attempt before revealing the answers. The hope then being that they'll be able to then complete the questions on the sheet or come and seek further explanation form me in our after-school revision sessions. I will do the same for the calculator topics when I find more time (now completed - see below for link)!

You can see all the 20 non-calc tutorial videos by clicking on the below link where a playlist of the 20 topics/vids will start playing...

You can see all 19 calc tutorial videos by clicking on the below link where a playlist of the 19 topics/vids has been put together...

I am still using these sheets with my set 3 Y11 class, however my top set Y11 are now progressing to a point where I'm hoping they'll all be able to get As/A*s. So, this week, I set up another document with homework sheets for my top set class to be given each week leading up to their GCSEs. These homeworks focus mainly on A and A* topics with a few trickier B grade topics they've struggled with in past papers etc.

The topics covered on these sheets are:
Surds, Bounds, Indices, Direct and Inverse Proportion, Algebraic Fractions, Standard Form, Simultaneous Equations (linear and quadratic/circle), Probability (without replacement), Factorising where the coefficient of the x squared term is greater than 1 and Recurring Decimals.

You can download these sheets from my TES resources by going to:

I haven't got round to doing the answers for these yet, but will upload the answers file to the resource when I have done them. ANSWERS are now included in the resource!

Support videos will be done over the next week or so and the link to these will appear here. Go to my YouTube Channel and subscribe to receive e-mails when new videos are updated! 

I hope these sheets are useful to others as they have been to me and my students. Let me know if you use them/have any suggestions for improvements etc.

N.B. I wanted to include other topics but due to needing diagrams or charts etc I decided to keep the majority of topics to number and algebra and so there's not too much shape, space and measure or data handling here.

What's Your Favourite Button on a Calculator?

On Monday, when we return to school after a relaxing half-term, I will be starting a mentoring 'role' with one of the ITTs my school are taking on for the next 10 weeks. Now, this was something I wanted to do at the start of this year, but as I do not yet have the required amount of experience for the ITT provider in our area it is something I had resigned to next school year when I am capable of undergoing the training officially. However, the week before half-term we received a phone call to say that we would be getting 2 ITTs after half-term and not just one as we had previously thought. So, I have been asked to support our department's ITT mentor with the mentoring role to our 2 ITTs. He will be the official mentor to our 2 ITTs, but I will be supporting him by holding meetings, observing lessons, and just being there for advice etc. So, in effect, I am an 'additional mentor', if you like, in an unofficial capacity.

Over the past week I have been getting my classes ready for when the ITTs take them over and so have been getting their class folders all up-to-date, marking their books, sorting out the schemes of work etc so they've got as much information as they could need when teaching the classes. As I have been doing this I got thinking about my own mentor on my GTP and how we held our meetings, how the observations went, what he said to me in feedback sessions and in general what and how he taught me.
Of the MANY, MANY things I was taught that year, my mentor once asked me what my favourite button on the calculator was. Now, this was something I had never thought of before and so I was intrigued as to what his was. My mentor's favourite button on the calculator is this little beauty...

The sexagesimal to decimal button!

As such it has since become my favourite too. The button, for those of you who don't know what it is/how it works, allows you to convert between sexagesimal and decimal values. So, when working with time calculations, or with degrees, you can use the button to convert a decimal to hours, minutes and seconds.

For example, if you were working out the time it took to run 12 miles at 8mph you would get an answer of 1.5 (hours). Then, by pressing the sexagesimal to decimal button, you get an answer of 1hr and 30 minutes. This answer is separated by the open circle, apostrophe and speech marks where 0 is given for the number of seconds.
You can also convert the other way. So if you wanted to know what 1 hour and 48 minutes was as a decimal you would type in 1, press the button above, 4, 8, the button above and then equals to get this displayed in sexagesimal form, then just press the button again to display it as a decimal (1.8 hours).

Prior to writing this post I looked up the online manual for my Casio calculator (others are, of course, available) and have since found lots of other things that can be done with the button, including adding and subtracting times:

For example, if you press...
1, button, 5, 2, button, +, 1, button, 2, 5, button, = ( 1 hour 52 mins + 1 hour 25 mins)
you will get an answer of...
3, open circle, 17, apostrophe, 0, speech mark (3 hours, 17 minutes, 0 seconds)!

There are lots more examples in the manual/appendix below!

These files can be found here...

There is usually a question on the GCSE papers that require students to work with some sort of time calculation. Whether it be a simple speed, distance, time calculation or a trickier question where a question is given in context that they have to work out.
When marking papers I have seen students write answers incorrectly when they do not realise that the decimal answers they get when working out time calculations do not correspond to the time in hours, minutes and seconds. A common misconception I have seen is when students write 1.25 hours as 1 hour and 25 minutes and not, as it should be, 1 hour and 15 minutes.

I know I wasn't taught how to use the sexagesimal to decimal button when I was at school and wonder what difference it would make to students if they were able to use the button correctly. Obviously, there is a need for students to know how to convert between hours, minutes and seconds etc, but if they are given the use of a calculator in an examination then that's what it is there for!

I know that my students need to become a lot more familiar with how to use their calculators, when working with trigonometry, geometry, fractions, powers, roots etc. It frustrates me so much when students can't even convert between a fractional answer and a decimal answer; I often get asked 'Sir, how do I get rid of this fraction' or 'Sir, I'm not getting what you've got on the board' (wrong setting [radians/degrees etc]).

So...I think this half-term I will set them a homework to explore one of the buttons on their calculator in greater detail. Get them to produce a poster about their chosen button with worked examples and diagrams of how they can/could use the button in their examinations.

My question to you then is this...What's your favourite button on a Calculator?!

Tweet me @mrprcollins or comment below...

Friday, 21 February 2014


Earlier this year I saw the following tweet from @thththalia...

What I loved about this was the WAGOLL...'What a good one looks like'. I'd never seen/heard of this before, but thought that I could use it when giving feedback to my GCSE classes after they had completed a past paper/assessment.

I tried it out initially with my Y10 set 1 class at the end of last month.

Now, when I was setting up their feedback lesson I thought about writing 'examplar' answers to the questions they had in their past paper assessment. However, what I liked about the tweet above was that the WAGOLL had come from the students themselves. So, taking this into account I thought it'd be better if it was the students answers I used to show the class WAGOLL.

Having looked at my spreadsheet where I brake down the marks for each student by question, I picked out those students who had achieved full marks on each of the 1st 10 questions on the paper (I wanted to focus the class on being able to pick up full marks on the 1st half of the paper in order for them to achieve the highest grades possible).

Here's my breakdown spreadsheet (names removed obviously)...

As you can see I work out the average mark per question for the class and have worked out the modal mark for each question too.

Next, I took pictures of those students answers where they had scored full marks and set up a presentation to go through in class.

Here's the opening slide that I had on the IWB as they entered...

As the class entered I only had the title and the 'WAGOLL' shown and the rest of the slide was hidden by the SMARTnotebook blind. They were all trying to figure out what 'WAGOLL' meant as it was the first time they had seen it.

I then handed out their papers and gave them time to look through their questions, ask any questions, find out what their friends had got etc. Then, I revealed what WAGOLL meant and gave them the snapshot figures for the class.

I then explained we were going to go through the 1st few questions on the paper and that I had photographed some of their work to show examples of 'What A Good One Looks Like'.

For each question I had a slide, like below, where I gave brief info on the question, marks allowed, the class' average (mean) mark and modal mark and then a picture of one of their answers. Here's an example...

The reaction from the class as we were going through the answers to each question was far better than when I had tried to go through questions with them in the past using the exam paper and writing the answers on the board. The reasons being, I think, were that:

  • The answers had come from the students themselves - some of them revelled in the fact that their answer had been chosen to show the class how to get full marks on that question.
  • I discussed, for each question, why the person had achieved full marks and where they picked up each mark. This, when students had their papers to compare the WAGOLL answer with their answer allowed them to see clearly why they didn't get full marks and what they needed to do to get the extra mark/s.
  • I added in a few practice questions after certain questions that were answered poorly by the majority of the class to break down going through question after question. I gave them time to complete the questions, we went through the answers and checked understanding and then moved onto the next question.
I have now set up the same feedback lessons for both my Y11 classes next week when returning to school. I will hope to see the same engagement from them as I did from my Y10 class. I will focus on the improvement the classes have made too from their mock examinations and give them an idea of where we were (mock grades), where we are now (current exam grades), where we need to be (target grades). All of this should help refocus the students back into their learning (after half term) and motivate them further to be revising for their GCSE examinations NOW!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

'Flappy Bird' and Data Handling Lessons

This week I have been introduced to the latest mobile craze that is 'Flappy Bird', an infuriatingly addictive game/app that my students are all currently raving about.

The game is simple, yet ridiculously difficult. All you do is tap your Smartphone's screen to 'flap' the 'flappy bird' when you do this he flaps up and down your screen. The goal is to then guide your 'flappy bird' through a series of green 'Super Mario Bros'' esque pipes by tapping or not tapping to flap or not flap your 'flappy bird'!

Simple ay? Nope! You'll find yourself frustrated at your pathetic attempts to get through the gaps in the green pipes and furious when the bird plummets to his death each time he/she so much as brushes one of the obstacles.
This is what makes the game so addictive and is clearly the reason why my students are hooked and are trying to beat each others' scores.

My year 9 tutor group were the ones to initially show me the game. One of them tried to share his wisdom and suggest it's best to ensure you are below the gap before 'flapping', another bragged at their high score of 33, which the rest seemed to be determined to beat. Obviously, my feeble attempts at competing with this score were soon made clear and I retreated to my desk.

Later that evening I downloaded the app myself in an attempt to see if I could do any better in the comfort of my own home. It turns out that once every now and again I do actually get a respectful score. My current highest score is 32!

So, where am I going with all of this...

As I was playing the game (getting increasingly annoyed at my inability to do well) I started to think about what my average score was and whether or not I was getting any better the more I played. This then led to me thinking of lessons I had taught recently to my Year 9 class where they were working with frequency tables and working out estimated means. I thought that this could be an ideal opportunity to capitalise on the latest craze.

What I have done is filmed myself playing the game a number of times. The idea then being that I use the video to 'hook' students into the lesson. The students would be asked to, in a suitable table, collect the scores I get as the video is played to them in class and then afterwards work out averages from their table, represent the results on a suitable graph/chart/diagram etc. Or, for a lower ability class, just get them to write down the scores as I get them and then work out my average score using the mean, mode, median and range. As I was creating a notebook file to use for the lesson/s I then started to think about possible cumulative frequency graphs that could be created, box plots that could be drawn and compared, stem and leaf diagrams that could be drawn and back-to-backs compared. There's so much that could be done, just from the short videos I have created. In addition, on the notebook file I have put a few different plenary slides that can be used with a series of lessons. One of these focuses on our school's SMSC logos that we are currently using. I've also added in my Numeracy across the curriculum logo (more about this in another post).

I've uploaded my resources (2 videos and a notebook file) to my TES resources. I had to link the videos from my YouTube account (mrcollinsmaths) as the file sizes are quite large [too large to upload on the TES] - each video of me playing the game is roughly 7 minutes long.

To download these just go to...

Or, to access the videos directly click on the below links...

Video 1:

Video 2:

I'd be interested to hear of any other suggestions for how I could use the videos I've created. Just comment below, on the resource on the TES, or by tweeting me @mrprcollins.

Happy Flapping!