Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Simplifying Surds Task/Resource

A couple of weeks ago I was teaching Surds to my Y9 class (doing the new Edexcel 1-9 GCSE Spec). I was looking for a resource to use with them, having covered simplifying surds. I looked on the TES and found the below resource by Sharon Derbyshire (@numberloving).

The resource is differentiated into 3 different treasure hunt style tasks. There's a green, amber and red set. I just used the green and amber sets with my class. I gave them the worksheet, printed on both sides of A4 paper. They then chose which set of questions they attempted, the green or the amber. However, instead of running the task like a traditional treasure hunt where they move around the room answering a question then find the answer on another, I decided to just scatter the cards onto my whiteboard (as shown below). My students then answered the questions on the sheet and then, when ready, came to the board to write the lines of the joke in the space on their sheet. Some students chose to do all the questions first and then piece together the joke. Others did a question at a time, found the answer on the board (according to the colour route they chose) and then wrote a line at a time of the joke.

What I really liked about this task is that the joke is the same regardless of the route they chose and so students are working towards the same 'end game', just on differently difficult/paced questions. The scattered effect of the cards on the board worked well as some could see from their desks and others got up as they needed to. The different colours on the board made it easy for them to see which set they were looking for and there were a few cards that had the same answer, which got them thinking about whether the joke was actually making sense as they went through it.

The cards scattered on my board:

You can download the resource free by clicking on the below link...


A massive thanks to Sharon for sharing and uploading.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Intro to Indices (Starter task/idea)

After the May half term we set our Y9s according to Edexcel's 'Baseline Tests' for their new 1-9 GCSE Spec. Since then we have started teaching them through the Edexcel new 2 year GCSE course. The first 'unit' of this is 'number' and includes topics such as HCF/LCM/Surds/Indices/Standard Form/Calculations/Estimation, etc.
When introducing the topic of indices I thought about how I wanted to do this as it's always been a topic I've found a bit 'dry' teaching as in the past I've kind of just gone down the route of giving classes the rules and then applying them to questions once explained. But, I wasn't sure where their current understanding of these would be and so I decided to write a bunch of indices related questions on the board (these progressed in order of difficulty from the top left of the board to the bottom right) and then, as students came in, gave them a post-it note to write their name on. I then told students to have a look at the questions on the board and then stick their post-it note on the board next to the question they felt was the 'trickiest' that they could do.

What I liked about this was that they were all, on entry, looking at the board to see the questions and immediately thinking about what they could do, what they had learnt in the past and what they didn't know/understand. They were asking each other questions, they were asking me questions, which I avoided answering at this point, and tried to place their post-it note on the 'trickiest' question they could!

After a 5-10 minute go at this, and once they had settled down, found their seats and done the usual title, date and margins I delved into the discussion part of this 'starter'.

I referred to the post-it notes and asked students to explain how they thought they'd 'evaluate' the expression on the board. This was the best bit as there were a lot of 'laws' that came from this discussion alone. I was able to do a bit of 'Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce'ing with the class as I already had post-it notes with different names on for the same questions. So, I was able to ask a whole bunch of 'Amelia...do you agree with Ryan...you've placed your post-it note on the same question' type questions.

I rewarded those students that were questioned and then, as the lesson progressed, those questions that weren't answered from the initial phase of the lesson were answered. Rather brilliantly, students suggested answers to the unanswered questions as they were learning the new 'laws' and we managed to fill in all but two of the questions on the board. This, for me, was great as my AfL was partially done by this alone as I could see which type of questions (negative indices) that we hadn't covered and needed to progress onto.

Y2 Problem Solving Day 2015

Last week, on Wednesday, I hosted my school's Y2 Problem Solving Day event for 7 of our local primary schools. In all we had around 40 students from our primaries in for a carousel of Mathematical activities. I planned the day based on the success of last year's event and here's how the day went...

To see last year's Y2 Problem Solving blog post, click here.

Like last year there were a number of 'bases' with tasks for students to move around in ascending order. Now, as we had more schools attend this year I had to add in a few 'bases'. This meant that the 7 schools all had something to be doing for each of the 5 sessions scheduled during the day. Each school completed 5 of the 7 'bases' throughout the day and then there was a 'Team Challenge' right at the end.

Base 1:

Same as last year - a 4 operations tarsia puzzle. The schools found this generally quite challenging and didn't have enough time to piece the jigsaw together. Once completed the numbers around the outside added to..guess what...27!

Base 2:

 Same as last year - the magic square task. students had two sets of 9 numbered tiles; an 'easier' set and a 'harder' set. Their task was to put the 9 tiles into a 3 by 3 square so that each row, column and diagonal added to the same amount. The 'easier' set's answer was 16 and the 'harder' 99.
The accompanying teachers from our primaries enjoyed this one as at first they struggled to do the 'easier' set. Strangely the 'harder' set was completed more so than the 'easier' one.

Base 3:

 Return of my awesome Frogs! Thanks to Carol (Mrs Murphy) for these once again.
Students had to find the minimum number of moves needed to swap over the differently coloured frogs. One of my extremely enthusiastic Y8 helpers was bound to this 'base' and asked the students to then see how many moves only 2 frogs on each side would need and then got them to estimate how many 4 frogs would need. She was great at engaging the Y2 kids in this and made it into a competition within the schools that visited this task.

Base 4:

New for 2015!
The Mathematical Egg Hunt! Thanks to some last minute help from my HLTA (Thanks Jane) I managed to scatter around 50 plastic eggs around the two rooms I used for the Problem Solving Day. Each egg had a question in it for students to answer. All they had to do was find 7 eggs and then answer the question inside on their answer sheet. Their answer sheet was given to them on arrival to our school. For this task they had to write the question and answer on the sheet so I knew which question had been attempted when marking answers.

Base 5:

 Same as last year - pentominoes
Students had to arrange the 12 pentominoes into a 6 by 10 rectangle. A tricky one this one. Another of my Y8 helpers was really good here at providing hints to schools as they worked on the task. At times, he would show them a correctly placed pentominoe and get them to carry on from there. Side note: I gave all my Y8 helpers (of which there were 10) an answer pack so they were all able to prompt/help out the Y2 students on the tasks.

Base 6:

 Stolen from my Y6 Problem Solving Day...The Marshmallow Challenge!
As it goes down so well at the Y6 day I decided to include it here. I had 2 of my Y8 helpers here to help provide the necessary resources to the schools as they began the task. I roamed around the two rooms but would always see how this one was progressing as they all found it tricky as the spaghetti breaks so easily - I hinted at backing a triangular base (stuck to the table) and going from here to make a pyramid (tetrahedron). One school did similarly with a square...

This school also won the whole day!

Base 7:

Also NEW for 2015:
Mathematical Balloons. Hidden around the two rooms we used were 5 sets of 5 differently coloured balloons. On each balloon I had written a question for students to answer. However, you couldn't answer the question without blowing the balloon up first. So students found the balloons on a little 'treasure hunt' around the rooms, blew up the balloons, read the question, answered it and then put this on their answer sheet.

The Team Challenge:

This was the same as last year too...The Cocktail Stick/Midget Gem Bridge challenge (for want of a better name).
The schools all took part in this challenge at the same time. They had a pack of 100 cocktail sticks and a bag of midget gems and had to create the best bridge they could that would allow a 10 stack of multilink cubes to pass underneath. I got our Resource Manager to judge the bridges based on: structure, stability, design and adherence to the given criteria (free standing, multilink stack has to pass under).
Here are some of the bridges that were made...

 The winning bridge!! With a little help from my Y8 helpers!

The day ran very well with all schools seemingly enjoying their day at 'big school'. It was a hot day and so the students were given a couple of breaks in the day (at different times to our usual school day: I was off timetable and covered). They went outside at one point and played on our flagpole area at the front of the school, which they enjoyed.
The day came to a close when I had totalled up the scores and announced the winners. Every student that participated received a certificate and chose between a pen with our school's logo/name on it or a little 'book bug' to take back with them as a memento (hopefully they'll remember us when it comes to them choosing their secondary school)! The winners each received a small gift, which was a 'Minions' wristband and lolly - these went down very well!

These days are a lot of hard work to organise and run, but are so worth it. The links we have with our local feeder schools are stronger as a result of it and I've heard lovely comments already from our community by friends of colleagues, etc. I wasn't without help when organising the day either and have to thank Jo, our faculty assistant for liaising with our primaries throughout, getting names and details. She printed and made all the certificates and name badges, contacted the office etc at our school to inform them all of the day taking place, arranged the refreshments and so so much more that I'm probably not aware of. So...THANK YOU JO!! I also need to comment on how fantastic and enthusiastic our Y8 helpers were too. They were brilliant. We chose the students that were our Maths prefects and also some others from one of my colleagues' tutor groups. They did our school proud and the Y2 kids really appreciated their help throughout the day.

If you're planning a similar day at your school it would be great to hear from you. What sort of tasks do you do at your days? How to you organise the days, etc. Get in touch my commenting below or find me on Twittter @mrprcollins

Here's to another fantastic Y2 Problem Solving Day in 2016!