Friday, 31 July 2015

New School Year, New Role, New Classroom

As one school year ends the preparation for the next is in full swing! As of September I will be Head of Mathematics at my school and have moved into a different room in a more central location within our department and with the Mathematics office adjoining the back of the room.
The room, as you can see from the 1st 2 pics below, was in need of a bit of TLC and so I've been in cleaning and painting the room over the past week and a half before putting up my new displays and making the room my own.
I hope the details of the displays, etc will be useful to others and this will give me a chance to link the resources I have used and, more importantly, thank those who have spent the time creating them!


The pics above show the room as I had pulled down the existing display boards and my colleague and I were in the process of swapping over our rooms!

One week later, a new paint job and a lot of laminating, cutting and is the back of the room (the door leads to our Mathematics office).

It took ages to re-back the display boards as they are massive and go right the way along the back wall of the room. The top display board is all my students' work that I have collected this year and kept safe with the knowledge that I would be going into my new classroom. The majority of the work has come from the 'takeaway homework' approach that I have used with my classes. See my previous blog posts on this here.
I have kept 4 spaces for new work to be displayed as and when it comes in next year and these are just pieces of card stapled to the wall with a bulldog clip at the top (middle) to hang the work on.
I will continue to update this board as new work comes in. It took ages to sift through all of the quality work that I had handed in this year. There was far too much to actually go on the wall so I have kept a pile of work that I will probably end up putting on display in our Mathematics computer room or in our corridor display cabinets (to replace the older work that is currently on display).

The lower display board is made up of AQA's 90 Problem Solving Questions (available here). I intend on using these in my teaching much more this year and so have them on display to not only remind me, but to act as a display whereby students can go and look at the problems and then choose one to attempt. I may even direct them as to which question to answer as I will be mapping the questions to our SoWs. There is then a magic whiteboard on the display where they can have a go at working out the questions, alternatively they can do this in their exercise books of course. They can go and sit at the back and answer them or just write the question down and go back to their seat. I have a beanbag in my room so there's nothing to say they can't sit comfortably on this whilst working on the questions! I'm going to then get the solutions to the problems as they are done and write them on the magic whiteboard's clear sticky notes and then place these over the top of the questions on the display so the answers are also on display as they are done!

On the top of the wall you may just be able to make out some fantastic art playing cards that I found on the Internet a year or so ago (they've recently updated this with a 2nd set)! A different artist was given a card from a standard deck of cards and then asked to create their own interpretation of that card. I had them printed on card and have stuck these up. Next to them are a few probability statements related to picking a card at random from the set (excluding the jokers and front/back designs).

I also have my mrcollinsmaths YouTube Channel address and QR Code to remind students it's there for them to use when revising/doing their homework!

 A panoramic of the 'Wall of Fame' with my students' work and 'takeaway homework' when it was first completed.

In the corner, at the back of the room behind the Office door, is my stationary cupboard and bookcase with my students' books/text books in. In front of this, at the moment, is my room divider with my 'Finished' display and on the other side my 'Concept Cards' display. This will be moved about as necessary for students to see/use.

On the back, side, of the room I have 2 other huge displays. The top one I have themed on developing a growth mindset in my lessons/with my classes. I have used @c0mplexnumber's 'How to Learn Maths' display (left of the board) and then was inspired by this tweet by @AndyBartlettCPD to put a 'fixed/growth' mindset display on the right of the board. I found a picture of a brain on the Internet and printed this out and then created some statements for either side to put around this (as in the tweet above). In addition to these I have put up AQA's Problem Solving Approach in Mathematics poster that I got free at #mathsconf4. I also have some of Sparky Teaching's 'Fail Safe' displays posters on here and plan on finding some 'inspirational quotes' to stick on the board too.

The bottom display is, of course, @Just_Maths' 'some elements of Maths' periodic table display. I couldn't fit all of the elements in due to the epicness of the display and so omitted some of them so it fitted; I like the discussions that this could create as to 'what's missing' and how I've arranged the 'elements'. I had to put the symbols up the side of the upper display board, but I think they look good here nonetheless.

This is the front of my room, far corner. I have my desk up against the wall rather than protruding from it so that I'm never sat behind the desk (as such). This way I have more space at the front of the room to prance about and do what I do best. It gives me more space in front of my IWB too (which, incidentally, is now up - I insisted on taking the one from my old room as I'm one of the only teachers in my school that use the SMARTboard and not the Promethean ones). Our ICT guys have been awesome in getting this sorted for me and it's all up and running ready for the new year!

Above my desk you can see my, rather blank, tutor display board. This is because my Head of Year will be giving us the obligatory fire safety/assembly seating plan/tutor time schedule laminates in our first meeting back and so they'll be updated then. I have, however, got my 'Be an Optimist Prime Not a Negatron' picture on there, right below the 'PCO' origami Marvel letters that I made last year.

Above the display board I have gone for subtle self-gratification and have my name in more Marvel origami lettering and then the two (amazingly awesome) pictures of me that one of my students drew. One of these (the superhero one) came from their takeaway homework comic on finding the equation of a straight line and the other was drawn on a thank you card they gave me when they left this year. Finish this part of the wall off with my Escher poster I got for Christmas last year and that's that bit done. You may also be able to make out my 'Constructions Comics' on the pillar next to my desk - I printed these out and laminated them to go on display, because they're amazing!

To the side of my desk, and on the front wall, I have my clock with the phrase 'time will pass, will you' around it. As well as 'Maths 2015-16'. The time display is supposed to be a bit 'tongue in cheek', as well as to serve as a reminder when I need to, lets say, 're-focus' some of my students. In the 'Maths 2015-16' display I made using I have the names of every student I will be teaching this year in each of my classes. I have 6 classes this year and so each number is given to a different class, in the dash I have my class codes and 'Mr Collins Maths'. I wonder how long it will take for one of them to notice this!?

As my IWB got put up today I haven't completely finished the front of the room yet, but have made a start. I have the obligatory number line above the board and then my 'number cruncher' display that I used and regularly updated last year. I've already put up a new one for the start of the year (answers on a postcard if you have nothing better to do).
Then, next to the number line I have my 'Went to After School Revision...GET IN!' meme poster. I decided to put this here as those kids that do stay behind to do revision after school next year will see this as they leave the room, hopefully reinforcing that awesome feeling they should have that they've gone the extra mile to develop their Mathematics. I may even insist that they high-five it as they exit the room!?

On my door I have 2 new 'F8' door signs. One that says F64^1/2 (64 to the power a half) and on the inside I have F2^3 (2 cubed). It won't take long for an office runner to get lost I'm sure!

Finally, this is the side of the room. I have another of @c0mplexnumber's displays - the square and cube  numbers. I love these and first saw them in my colleague's classroom and had to put them up when moving rooms. I also have the prime numbers that my students did for me a couple of years ago on the back of the beam you can see in the top of the picture. Hopefully this will help them remember these basic facts.

So there we have it, my room all set up for another school year (all bar a few last minute tweaks and additions). I feel very much at home in the room and have made it my own. Hopefully my students will be inspired by the room and feel comfortable in their new learning environment. Now...Summer Holidays! :)

If you like what you've seen/read and want to know more or want the resources for the display titles/letterings then just give me a shout via the comments below or tweet me @mrprcollins. Thank you to all of the above creators of the resources I have used, without room would be far less inspiring!

Thursday, 2 July 2015


#mathsconf4 took place on Saturday 20th June in London and I was lucky enough to attend my second #mathsconf having been to the previous one in Birmingham. Check out my previous blog post on #mathsconf3 here.

At #mathsconf4 I took part in 4 different sessions, each of which had their own things to share and I learnt a lot from each. I'll outline each of these below. However, before the first session we had the traditional 'speed dating' event. The event came with a lot more pressure this year - the final 'date' being the potential future wife according to @LaSalleEd! No such luck. However...I did pick up some great ideas that included:

1) from Chloe - a healthy reminder of open questioning and how she'd taken one of her school's units of work and created open questions from their previous statements. For example, rather than showing a triangle and asking what the shape was she'd ask 'what facts/statements do you know about this shape'?

2) from Miguel - - I love the look of this website. Students get given a blank graph and then are shown a small video clip (one of Dan Meyer's) and are then asked to graph the story that is being shown in the video. For example, Miguel showed me one of the videos where students had to record the distance an object was from the camera over the time the video was recorded. The video clip is shown 3 times, once in normal speed, once in slow-mo and again with the iterations of time included. I'll definitely be including this in my teaching of real-life graphs next year - it's going in our SoW too as a suggested resource.

3) from Chris - I really like this idea...when teaching rotations or transformations: give students a set of axes with a shape in one quadrant and just ask them to rotate/reflect the shape - no other information than that and then just see what they come up with. Don't ask them questions, don't hint at anything and then get volunteering students to come to the IWB to draw on where they reflected/rotated their shape. Loads of discussion can then be had as to the direction, centre, number of degrees, line of reflection, etc.

After the 'speed dating' session I went straight to the first of my 4 sessions...

The first session I chose to go to was @MissBResources' 'Inspiring Independence and Progress'.
I'll say at this point that I recorded loads of notes on my iDoceo app as a separate 'lesson' on my planner - this made it very easy to refer to as it's stored under the right date, etc and is just another wonderful use of the app - I will be writing a post about this soon as I've used it all year for the first time instead of a traditional 'school planner'!
Referring back to my notes I took away lots from Danielle's session...
Danielle reminded me of @c0mplexnumber's growth mindset displays that would be great for our Mathematics corridors. This also reminded me of an idea @mathsjem spoke about at the last conference about having students 'success stories' on display when they had overcome something in their learning to succeed in their Mathematics.
Here are @c0mplexnumber's displays from the TES:
The next thing Danielle spoke about that I'd jotted down was having whiteboards on tables in your classroom at all times. Danielle spoke about the need to 'train' kids into using these responsibly, but the main purpose of this being that they could use them at any point to do workings, etc and not be afraid to make mistakes as with a whiteboard they can easily rub them off and start again, whereas some students don't like writing something in their exercise book in case they get it wrong - especially at the start of a new year when they've got a nice shiny new exercise book and want to make it all nice and neat and tidy (usually the girls)!
I love's new Mathematics Notebooks and my department will be using these next year in a similar way with our Y7s at least and then see how things develop. More about these soon...but take a look at them here.
A reminder of the book 'Manglish'.
Learning Objectives should say ' be able that...'. The key part of this being the 'so that' to give students a purpose behind what is being learnt.
I totally agreed when Danielle said about the need to go broader with topics in terms of the contextualisation and links to other subjects/problem solving.
Oh on that note...I found in my #mathsconf4 goodie bag a very good poster on problem solving from AQA. Here it is...(this will be going up in my classroom next year, and my colleagues' if I can get it photocopied/can get more from AQA)?!

We then got introduced to a website similar to Socrative to get students to do a quiz on their mobile devices called 'Kahoot' - this website is free and looked really good. Worth a look.
Finally, I remember Danielle talking about getting students to convert between/from/to cumulative frequency graphs, box plots and histograms and getting students to think about how they would go from one to the others. This then linked in really nicely to my next session as this came up again there...

Second Session: Douglas Butler's (@douglasbutler1) 'Putting the Web to Work in the Classroom'
I must say before I start noting down the things I took away from this session that I found Douglas hilarious! He could definitely be a stand-up comedian if he ever gets bored of Mathematics and all things TSM. I could have quite easily listened to him all day.
In other news...I sat, like, 2 seats away from @ColleenYoung and only found this out right at the very end of the session - was a bit of a Twitter Maths Celeb moment for me having not met her before!
There is so much on Douglas' website that (ashamedly) I knew little of prior to this session. All of the things I will mention here can be found on there...
The most impressive thing about Douglas' talk was the ease at which he took us all through Google Earth and Autograph to show us how you would use these resources to explain/show to students all about gradients, bearings, data and graphs/charts you can create, etc.
I love the idea of using images at the start of lessons on gradient and then using Google Earth to explore these further. I now know how to create paths in Google Earth and analyse the routes. It reminded me of a cycle app I have that maps out my routes for me and shows me the gradients at each point.
I like the real-life versions of hexagons and pentagons using Google Earth.
Jing is a great tool for screen capture and for creating movies. These can be used in a 'flipped learning' style where students can watch them prior to a lesson, or even as the 'Eastenders' moment at the end of a lesson to set up the next!
I need to look at Douglas' recommended apps for iPads on his site and I also need to use the linear clock he showed us - that looked really nice!
Then came the ease at which Douglas used a spreadsheet of data from his website and imported it into Autograph to then create histograms and box plots from, which I thought I could use when doing Danielle's task of getting students to consider how they could go between each one. I now know how to import a column of data from Excel into Autograph and will use this so much next year, where possible. I know I have Google Earth on my school PC, but need to check Autograph!
There was so much more here that Douglas spoke about from his website that I need to really check that out when I next have some free-time and I'll definitely be exploring over the Summer ready for September.

Session Three: Sarah Flynn's 'What I've learned from teaching new GCSE content to year 10 and 11 students'

This session was really interesting to see the difference in preparation teachers have had if they did the 'linked pair pilot' specification over the 'normal' GCSE when looking to the new GCSE spec. A lot of the topics that are 'new' to the new 1-9 GCSE have already been taught and covered in the linked pair pilot and so there are already resources out there that we, as Mathematics teachers, can use when teaching these 'new' topics. Sarah gave us a selection of these past paper questions to look through to see the difficulty of them/what students are expected. We were given questions on Venn Diagrams and on Graphs and finding areas under curves.

The main points I took away from this session were the emphasis on making links in Mathematics and students being able to form and solve linear equations from any context. Also, there is a stronger emphasis on ratio, proportion and fractions and these skills are combined in other questions meaning students need to be proficient with these skills.

Session Four: Amir Arezoo's (@WorkEdgeChaos) 'The Art of Leading a Mathematics Department'

I was looking forward to this session the most I think as it was the one session, when making my choices prior to the conference, that I really felt was relevant to what I needed at this stage of my career; I'm going to be Head of Mathematics at my school from September and so any advice I can get now is greatly received! I have a whole list of questions that Amir gave us to consider at the start and throughout next year - these will be really helpful and I will refer to these regularly. Amir went through each point throughout his session and in addition to these 'prompts' I also took away the following from this session...

A few books to look out for/get for 'Summer reading': 'Nix the Tricks' and 'Teach Like A Champion'.
Having a 'Common Calculation' policy across the school/our local feeder schools. I like this idea and it could tie in with our numeracy across the curriculum on a more formal scale. However, we have been used to saying 'let the students decide what works for them and allow them to use that method', rather than prescribing a single method?
We have a very old 'Mathematics' sign above our staircase at one end of our Mathematics corridor - Amir said about having a 'Welcome to Mathematics' sign and this will be one of the things I 'update' over the Summer at both ends of our corridor and above each staircase.
Interestingly, Amir spoke about departmental observations and how best to record these, who should observe whom and getting everyone in the department to observe one another. He then also spoke about what data to record on each teacher within the department and how that data should/would be used. I have no right or wrong ways to do any of the above - just ideas/questions to consider in line with my school and department and what currently works for us. The main thing I took from this session is that whatever I do has to be in the best interest for our students learning and our department - there is no 'one size fits all' approach to leading a department, but finding what is needed and what works already and going from there seems sensible. Our department is in a very good position and I don't plan on changing that! :)

So that was #mathsconf4 - another thoroughly enjoyable day spent. I took away so many ideas from so many different people. I haven't even mentioned the 'Tweet Up', which was another highlight. I even met up with my old NQT mentor from my previous school and another of my previous colleagues - it was great to see them and catch up. One of the best things about the events is knowing others, and, in turn, knowing that I do have lots of contacts with other Mathematics teachers in other schools that are all trying to be better. I have no idea if other subjects have a similar conference, but can safely say that being a Mathematics teacher at present is both exciting and inspiring.
I do like that about @LaSalleEd - they have the aim of all Mathematics teachers working together and these conferences go a long way to making that possible. So a massive thank you to La Salle for putting on such a fantastic event again. Thank you.