We all love Carol Vodermann (just me then?) and for any maths teachers it has to be a good starter to get students to try the “Numbers Game” just like the channel 4 programme. Now let me be clear this is not an officially endorsed but it works on the same principle and also has the additional benefit that you can manually set the numbers or limit the range (good for lower ability). I have been using this for many years and students never seem to tire from it (within reason). You can download it from here.

Computer Room Capers

Okay, so once a fortnight I have my Key Stage 3 classes in the computer room. I thought today I would not do my normal fallback. This normally consists of consolidation and practice questions using either Living Worksheets, MyMaths or Manga High.
Whilst planning for today and inspired by Dan Meyer’s 3 act lessons I thought I would take a different approach. So it was not a 3 act lesson as such but instead a kind of in-between. We have been doing probability and I thought we could do a 2 dice problem.
I told them we were going to set up a game where people paid £1 and then if they rolled a magic number with the two dice they would get a prize. I asked them what questions they would either ask as a player or the organiser. I was surprised by their responses. Lots of them I had not thought of and were genuinely outside the box. Of course the key ones were – What is the magic number? Is it the total of the 2 dice? What are the probabilities? How much should the prize be?

They were then told to run a simulation by rolling dice (physically and not by using the computer) and record the results in a spreadsheet.

The vast differences in how they did this was amazing. Some went for theoretical probability and one boy produced a text-book 2 way table. Others did tallies and some did their own thing altogether.

The number of throws they did varied from 20 to 100 but some found out the more throws the better their results would be.

Although it took longer than I anticipated there were some excellent discussions in pairs and small groups.

They definitely got more out of it then a typical computer room lesson. We used the ICT as a tool to complete a task. I will be putting my thinking cap on and trying to see if I can do more useful maths lessons like this in the future. The only downside was the amount of planning it took. However, I would say it was worth it!

It’s almost Friday so enjoy the end of your week.


Name Picker

Okay, so the idea is simple – I am always on the look out for ways not to have the same students being picked on. It is common that the same students will put their hands up. That’s why I wrote a bit of software which takes a list of names and randomly selects them. The result is that everyone has to stay conscious. You could also use it to select random words, teams or anything else that can be written in a list. You can download it from here.

Half term

I guess this half term has been more of a “work from home” week rather than a rest. On the one hand I feel ahead of the game a little but on the other I feel that I need to make sure that tomorrow I have a complete work free day.
This half term has been involved in report writing, coursework (Controlled Assessment for Statistics), designing a website for my classes, starting on the new year seven scheme of work and designing a homework log. I have also managed to catch up on marking so that I am at least temporarily up to date. I am sure as the days progress I will be blogging on each of these so I will let you know how that goes.
I like to try and set myself a few targets each half term. This one is no different and it will be interesting to see which ones I keep up. I seem to have a longer list that normal but here they are in summary:
 Meet and greet. I have been trying to get better at this but sometimes it is tough. It does make a difference but I have to make sure I am organised so that I am there ready and waiting.
 Homework logs. This is a trial for 3 of my classes. It is going to be interesting.
 Reduce the waffle. I seem to spend some lessons doing a lot of talking. I think it comes from teaching a long time and at times it gets ridiculous. The class end of with little time to consolidate what they have been shown. I have therefore decided to set an audible timer which will go off every 20 minutes. If I am still waffling then it will be time to stop!
 I have created 3 little internal websites for my classes. I have done this before but to be honest they have not been used. So I am going to use a mixture of bribery and coercion to see if I can persuade them to be used. Again no doubt more of this will follow.
 A funny photo/website of the day. Yet another brilliant idea from the blog of Dan Meyer
Well I will let you know how this goes.
Talking of too much waffle. I think it’s time to bring this to a close.

First day of new half term.

Well I survived the first day of the new half term. Sometimes these are the most manic days and can be really frustrating as in theory I should have been ultra prepared but then the photocopy threw a wobbly ten minutes before a class. It was the only thing I had to get ready but it annoyed me for a good 20 minutes.

I tried a print on post it activity and it went well. I think some students liked the tactile nature. Also it was with long multiplication which is always tricky. It was definitely a good idea to have the answer bank on the board as a few of the students in my year nine class could pick out that there answer was not there and then retry or at least check their answers.

I also managed to get two of the websites live. Not sure how they are going to go down but I guess time will tell.

Made a point to set alarms on my laptop at 20 minute intervals to check I was still not on a waffle. All 3 lessons and I was still in mid-flow. I must talk a lot! This is something that I have to improve. When I was planning I was like “easy ten minute intro max” and then after 20 minutes was still doing the intro. Hopefully tomorrow will go better with this.

Overall, though a reasonable first day back for a cold slightly damp Monday.


Print on Post-it Notes

Wow – What a simple idea. So obvious but yet brilliant. How come I never thought of this? I am a self-proclaimed geek after all. As a post it fan – that’s another blog entry in itself, the idea of printing on them is great. I have a lesson on Monday to try this out. When setting this up you do need to make sure you have the sheets correctly orientated for your printer. Also, I suspect that there is potential for jams but so far it all seems to be working for me. I used the templates from here.

The New Scheme of Work

Writing a new Year 7 Scheme of work is never going to be easy and is a big task. However, there are some things I am unhappy with at the moment. Now I helped write the existing one so I am slightly to blame but there are definitely things I would like to see changed.
 It is very prescriptive. Now that could be good but often it is very tight on time meaning there is no flexibility. By the end of each half term or term staff are frantically try to finish off and stuff the last possible objective in. This means there is no room for manoeuvre if students are struggling staff are still under pressure to move on. That can’t be good.
 The assessments are quite poor. Although they reflect the previous topics they are often a little unfair on the student. They go from easy to difficult with in one question and often marks seem overly stingy.
 We have put some investigational tasks in mainly from Bowland Maths and Nuffield maths but these are often seen by staff as bolt on and if staff are short of time then they tend to get skipped. This is a shame as the students often say they really enjoy them. This brings me on to my final point…
 I want the staff and students to enjoy their maths lessons. They should be able to take a few lessons diverting and having fun. I am hoping to try and get staff to really try and put their own enthusiasm for the subject into their lessons even if it means they go “off piste” from the scheme of work. I am hoping this will then transfer to the students.
I guess time will tell. So far I have blocked out some timings and have got the main objectives for sets 1 to 4. We have 6 sets (and two halves making 12 classes) and I am intending sets 1 and 2 to complete one Scheme, 3 and 4 to do a second and 5 and 6 to be separate. We will have to see how that goes.