Sunday, 2 March 2014

'alexpett's' GCSE Maths Topic Log

Just after the New Year I came across one of the best resources I have seen uploaded to the TES website. The resource is 'alexpett's' 'Maths Topic Log' which can be seen and downloaded here...

The resource is an EPIC one that I have been using with my 3rd set Y11 class since we returned to school in the New Year. The reason I have been using this resource with them is that following their mock results, where only a couple of students in the class achieved a C grade or above, I decided I needed to focus on the 'borderline' topics with them in order for them ALL to achieve Cs and above. This, I believe, was better for them than trying to teach them the higher topics where they may be able to pick up a few marks here and there. So, essentially (for now) I am putting the topics that appear at the back of the Higher Tier exam papers (A-A* topics) to one side, and focusing on the 'borderline' topics to ensure students can answer ALL of the questions in the 1st half of the least. This will allow them to get a C grade, if not a B grade, which would allow all the students in my class to hit their targets as none of them are above a grade B. Then, nearer their examinations, and through after-school revision sessions, I can cover the harder topics.

The resource, a formatted spreadsheet with over 40 topics (with included worksheets (tests) all hyperlinked from it), has therefore become the basis of our lessons since the start of term 2. In each of our lessons we start out by 'mindmapping' the topic we are studying, drawing on prior knowledge and covering misconceptions, or, the class are given a series of questions to attempt on the topic. I then go through the questions with the class and cover anything they hadn't covered before. On some occasions I have had to teach the topic 'fresh' as nothing has been forthcoming in the start of the lesson, in which case we sometimes have then to spread the topic over a series of lessons. After the starter, and input from myself, the class are then given the 'Test A' and 'Test B' for that lesson's topic. They work through the questions, some with support from my teaching assistants and I, and then we go through the answers together on the IWB and the class mark their work. I then take all their work in and update the spreadsheet to track how they are doing. In some of our lessons we only get time to do 'Test A', so 'Test B' is given as homework due in in our next lesson.

Here's how my current spreadsheet looks...

Obviously, I have taken my students' names out. As you can see from the xls each student's score is colour coded depending on how successful they were with each topic's test. There are also averages for each of the 4 areas of Mathematics.
There are a few 'gaps' as some students are out of some of our lessons due to college. Some 'Test Bs' are blank to due to h/w not being completed (sanctions applied accordingly!)

My class, since the start of term 2, have covered all of the 'number' and 'algebra' topics, including 2 or 3 of the 'shape, space and measure' and 'data handling' topics where I thought they fitted in well with the topics we had covered previously. So, with about 8 weeks left of teaching my Y11s we have the majority of the shape, space and measure topics and the data handling topics. Now, as we have had assessments in class since we started going through the topics on the resource, I have taken certain topics out that the class did well on as a whole as we would not have time otherwise to go through each topic on the resource. I also took out those topics we had already covered in the 1st term.

What I aim to do with the data is as follows...

On the other 'tab' at the bottom of the xls there is a worksheet where you can pull out individual student's results on each topic's tests. When the class start their examinations, and therefore do not come to school except when they have examinations, I will give each of them a breakdown of their results, which will help form the basis of their revision for their examinations in June.

Here's what the sheet looks like that I'll be giving each student...

You can see the topics this student has covered, and where there are gaps. These 'gaps' will be the lessons they missed through absence/college and so will need looking up/attempting. I have put all of the 'tests' on the school's VLE so all students can already access them at home (I have had some [a few] come back from students that missed the lesson on that topic, but took the initiative to do them at home to catch up).

I will advise students as to which topics are the ones they should focus on (especially if there are a few 'redish' ones). For this student they'd need to look up their knowledge of indices, FDP and probably standard form too.

What I love about the resource (the spreadsheet and the hyperlinked worksheets) is that my students have really taken to our lessons this term. I was worried that they would get 'bored' with our lessons, but they have liked the consistency and format of them. They know what they are going to be doing in each lesson and more importantly, what is expected of them - they know they will need to copy notes/examples from the board in the initial part of the lesson and that they will have to complete both tests in the lesson (or complete for h/w [something they'll do as much as they can to avoid]).

Here's what the 'tests' look like (these are the 'angles in polygons' sheets I will be covering with my class tomorrow)...


Each 'test' is out of 10 marks and look very similar to the questions the students will be asked to answer in their examinations. This is important as when we go over the answers in class I take the students through where they get each of the marks and what the examiners will be looking for in certain cases. It also allows me to go over the 'examination terminology' with the words like 'explain', 'justify', 'solve', 'simplify' etc and what they actually mean for the students.

I can only speak highly of the resource above and recommend it to anyone that teaches a 'borderline' GCSE group. As 'alexpett' states in the description of his resource, it is a 'work in progress', which must only mean there is even more to come from it.

I recently did an assessment in class with my 3rd set (we gave them a non-calculator, linear, higher past paper). Over half of the class are now on a C grade or above and this must be down, in part at least, to the use of this resource in our lessons since the start of term 2.

So, THANK YOU VERY MUCH 'alexpett'!