Thursday, 19 February 2015

Mathematics Assemblies

At the end of the last school year our PSHE coordinator sent an e-mail round to our department asking if any of us would be interested in delivering a Mathematics assembly to all year groups. Having thought about what I could possibly do a Mathematics assembly on I decided to go for it and week beginning 9th March I will be leading an assembly to each of our year groups...all about Mathematics.

Now, I'm thrilled that this week is the week before Pi Day on the 13th March (and the Maths conference run by La Salle Education) and so will be building something in about Pi Day during the assembly.

Having thought about what I want to say in the assembly, I have decided that I will use the chance to speak to every student in our school about their attitudes to their Mathematics and trying to dispel the myths out there about Mathematics and try to move away from the negative perceptions of the subject.

I saw, earlier this evening, this blog post on a similar theme.

I want to voice to our students that it's not ok to say 'i'm rubbish at maths', 'i'm not very good at maths', 'maths is hard' etc, etc. All the things we hear far too often. Indeed, students should be ashamed of saying these things, whereas, currently, they almost say them with pride - as if it's cool to say that they're not very good at it (Mathematics). To put it in context, people are generally ashamed of not being able to read or write and will often say nothing and hide this fact. Then why do we (the general 'we') feel ok to say we're not very good at Mathematics?

I ran a revision session to our Y11 parents last week. The session was aimed at how they can be supporting their child/ren with their Mathematics GCSE revision. After I had covered all of the various ways they can revise for their Mathematics exams and how they should be revising, I mentioned a few other bits of advice. One such piece was to be positive about their Mathematics exam!
Far too often I hear at parents' evenings that parents can't help their child/ren with their Mathematics homework as 'they haven't got a clue', or 'were never very good at Maths at school'. I asked them therefore, whilst understanding that they may not have had a good experience of Mathematics themselves, to be as positive about it as they could. Encourage their child/ren, ask them questions about what they've done, how they've done it, was there anything they could do to check their answer/s, had they looked the question/topic up on the Internet etc, etc. Rather than just going 'oh well, do the best you can'.

I think I want to approach my assemblies with the same sort of tone. Trying to encourage the students to take the 'growth mindset' approach rather than just believing/accepting that they might not be good at Mathematics and therefore giving up altogether.

I also want to highlight good practice from the students themselves. I plan to get some of my students, and other students that my colleagues teach, on board to showcase the good work that is being done. Ideally I'd want them to stand up whilst I talk about the things they've done, or allow me to show their exercise book/work they've produced on the screen - all with an aim of being positive about the Mathematics we are doing at our school, that all it requires is, perhaps, a change in attitude and that they are all capable of doing well with their Mathematics.

I've led a few assemblies this year when standing in for our head of year and so am looking forward to, what I'll now be calling, 'assembly week'. If any Mathematics teachers have given a similar assembly to the students in their schools I'd love to hear what you did/showed etc. Tweet me @mrprcollins or comment below.

Mathematical Plenary Sticks

One of the new resources I have created recently (see them all here) is my 'Mathematical Plenary Sticks'.
The resource is a pdf document with over 100 plenary questions/tasks for Mathematics lessons. Here's the front page of the document...

And here are the sticks once they're cut up, folded and laminated...

 Once laminated, punch a hole through each with a hole punch and then bind them with a keyring chain or treasury tag

 You can see lots of examples of questions here. They're folded over too so there are questions on both sides of each stick
 When gathered together they are neat and can be stored easily
You can print them off as big or as small as you like

I have a set of these on my 'Finished' display board so students can help themselves when finished and choose some questions/tasks to attempt.
Find out more about my 'finished' display board here.

Each page of the pdf comes with the question templates that look like...

Cut around the dotted lines, fold over the bold line inbetween each stick and then either stick them together or laminate them.
There are also some blanks included so you can write your own questions before laminating and binding.

I've used these over the past few years in my lessons. The main reason why I use them is that I tend to forget really good questions/tasks to give my students at the end of lessons. So, I made these sticks and have them on my desk so I can quickly flick through them before or during each lesson. I pick out a few questions that I can pose my class or I give my class a few to choose from - they answer the question they like the most.
Since using them I have come up with other ways they can be used - all of these details can be found in the pdf document...

•Choose 2-3 of these questions/tasks prior to the lesson and put them in your teaching resources for students to answer throughout or at the end of your lesson (take a print screen of the pdf document or put the laminated ‘plenary sticks’ under your visualiser [if you have one] for your class to see)
•Choose particular ‘Plenary Sticks’ to give to certain students throughout the lesson to extend their learning/support them
•Give each student/pair/group a set of these ‘plenary sticks’ at the end of a lesson/series of lessons on a topic and allow them to choose a number of questions/tasks to complete
•Have a set of the ‘Plenary Sticks’ on display in your teaching room for students to go and choose when finished (like on my 'finished' board above)
•Randomly select a question/task from the ‘Plenary Sticks’ (after a brief check it is suitable for your lesson/the topic) and ask this to students at the end of the lesson

All the questions/tasks can be used as starters too and many are transferable to other subjects. Some questions are specific to certain topics, but the majority are general to any Mathematics lesson/topic.

If you like the look of these then here's the link to the resource page on the TES...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

2015...the answers! [Spoiler Alert]

Following my previous post this year on my new displays (see here), my students have now finished the 2 0 1 5 challenge! In fact, they finished it about a month a go - I've only just got round to doing some blogging!

Here's the finished display and how it looks in my classroom...

Each of the solutions has a students' name attached to it (blurred out here for obvious reasons).
They were all rewarded for providing these.

Since the challenge has been completed we have moved the display from my classroom to our Mathematics corridor to show the rest of the students in the school what has been done.

The final 2 solutions (67 and 68) came from one of our top set Y10 students. Their class (taught by one of my colleagues) were given the challenge to do as homework to try and challenge my top set Y11 class, who had done the majority of the solutions to the challenge out of all my classes.
My colleague came and found me one lesson as I was observing our ITT and presented me with their solutions, including the 2 remaining numbers my Y11s hadn't found!

Here's their work...

Congratulations to them for finding the last 2 solutions!

Here's to 2016 and the new, year challenge! :)

The Never Ending Notebook

Earlier this school year the brought out their new A5 and A4 'Magic Notebook'. I've been using mine since then and they're brilliant!

Basically, they are 40/60 page reusable notebooks, each page made out of whiteboard material meaning you can write on and wipe off whatever you like, over and over again. Even better is that the books come with a correctable whiteboard pen. This means that after writing and leaving the ink to dry for a few seconds that the ink can't be wiped off unless using the rubber on the end of the pen, or a whiteboard wipe. This means that you can keep notes for as long as you are like until you are ready to get rid of them!

Here's some of my notes/workings...

Each page in the book(s) is perforated so can be ripped out and can even be printed on in a printer. This is perfect if wanting to print graphs/grids on the reverse of one page. They can then be used as mini whiteboards. If you don't have the correctable pens, you can use ordinary whiteboard pens as you would with any whiteboard. The writing wont stay on them, like the correctable pens, but if you're using them as mini whiteboards - you won't want it to!

Personally, having the notebook is great as I'm forever writing notes down and then either having to get rid of them or keep them somewhere safe. With the Magic Notebook I can take and keep the notes I want and erase them when I'm done. My Notebook is a constant working document. I erase when I need to, I take more notes as I need them. The notebook is never ending - once you have one, you won't need another.

Since I've had the notebook I have wondered if they would be a viable replacement for student's exercise books...?!


How would you mark all the work in the books if work was erased as it was no longer needed?
What is the actual purpose of an exercise book? Is it just to keep notes, workings etc? Or is it to have a log of students' work to evidence and show progress, tick OFSTED's boxes etc?
Could students have a 'working book' and a separate 'rule book'?
Cost of the correctable whiteboard pens? Students struggle to have a working pen on a daily basis, let alone a correctable whiteboard pen!

These are all questions I'm yet to figure out. Nonetheless they're great to have as your own personal notebook and I've since bought an A4 one to go with the original A5 one I got.

Take a look at them here...

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Valentine's Day Mathematics Activities

Yesterday, on the eve of Valentine's Day, I used one of my recently created resources with a few of my classes to celebrate Valentine's Day. Any excuse to run a themed lesson and I'm happy! With my Y7, Y9s and Y11 class I used a number of Mathematical activities as outlined below...

Firstly, I set the tone to the lesson by having some love songs playing in the background as they entered - I chose The Pointer Sisters -Jump (For My Love) and then Michael Jackson's 'The Way You Make Me Feel'. Other love songs are available! :)
I also had my PowerPoint on the board to create some discussion as to what they had to do for the first find their 'true love'.

Here's a link to my newly created resource on the TES:

(save it for after half-term or next year, perhaps?)

The first task involved them finding their 'love percentage' by finding the number of vowels in their name (first name and surname) as a percentage of the total number of letters in their name. Then, by going round the class and comparing each others' love percentages we found some 'true love' matches! (If the percentages matched it was clearly meant to be)!

N.B. I did just clarify to my classes that this was just meant to be a bit of fun and that no actual relationships should be based on the task!

Next, after they had found a love match, they had a task where they looked at a Valentine's Day Menu for my fictional restaurant 'Cupid's Arrow'. They had to work out how many possible combinations of meals they could choose from the menu if they picked 1 starter, 1 main and 1 dessert (there were 3 of each to choose from). We discussed how to best record the information and other questions were asked throughout the task such as what would happen if there were 4 of each meal to choose from, etc.

When the answer of 27 different possible combinations was revealed I then gave the classes a short task of, for the number they love, writing down as many possible questions to which it was the answer. I obviously did the number 27 to provide some examples. What I found with this task is that the different ability classes were able to apply different aspects of what we had been learning to the task. My Y11 set 1s were using laws of indices, equations, surds etc, whereas my lower Y9 class were just using the basic four operations.

Then, with some classes where we had more time, I allowed them a choice of tasks to look into to develop the menu problem further. For other classes I gave them an alternative way of finding their 'true love' by getting them to find values for their names based on the position of the letters in the alphabet. i.e. a=1, b=2, ..., z=26 etc.

The lessons went really well, I had love songs playing in the background throughout the lessons, which went down really well with the kids. The students loved finding their love percentages and values for their names to find their love matches and there was a lot of Ooooooos and Aaaaahhhhhs when certain students were matched up! All done in the spirit of V Day!

A great way to end the half term (even when suffering from man flu)! :)