In my bid to try and avoid just using computers as an “easy lesson” I set my year 8 class a task which I have used before. It is great for a one of computer lesson and particularly suited to those who are not so confident with using ICT in maths. The task is called Spirolaterals and is part of Bowland maths. However, it is somewhat hidden away. There are quite a number of smaller activities and they are in the Professional development modules. This one resides (with 3 other options) in the Professional development module 4. Use the Bowland Player to access it and all the resources including hand-outs and some video of it being used in action. Well worth the trouble and time and you get taken through it step by step.


Smartboard XC

Extreme Collaboration is a new add on to Smartboard software. I have a Smartboard in my classroom and I use it daily (actually hourly) and would really struggle without it. The software has been getting better over the years (apart from the load times) and with Smartboard 11 you can download extra “bolt on” sections. Extreme Collaboration (XC) is in beta (not yet quite ready but needs large scale testing) and can be downloaded. This is probably not for the feint hearted as it is still a little buggy (as you would expect for a Beta). However, the idea is that students using any web enabled device can type in a code and then add comments to a Notebook page. I immediately thought that for 3 act lessons this would be great for the initial “What questions?” part. They could literally type in on their mobile phones and it would make a list on the board. Student can be anonymous (dangerous) or you can trace the comments and get students to log on. I am thinking of trying this over the week and I will let you know how I get on. You can download it from here.


If you haven’t already heard of Tarsia then where have you been? This is a free piece of software from here. It allows you to create “jigsaws” where you can have matching activities. The students cut out the shapes and have to put equal sides touching. For instance, one side of a shape may have a sequence and another may have the nth term which goes with it. When put together the piece fit together to make a bigger shape (like a hexagon). You can see the solution or the printouts using the tabs along the bottom. The easiest thing to do is load up an existing file and have a play. The go to place seems to be the ever resourceful Mr Barton.

Bowland Maths

One thing I will definitely be putting into the new Year 7 Scheme of Work will be Bowland Maths. This is an amazing resource with some really good investigations. A few years ago I went to a course on it and have been hooked ever since. A lot of the tasks involve using ICT and this can be a problem if you don’t readily have a computer room you can book. However, there are several tasks which can be done without. I have tried several of the activities and then asked students for anonymous feedback and the results are always positive and students enjoy working on the projects and looking at where they can use maths. The site also includes CPD modules if you need to persuade others. Some of these include one lesson tasks which are good to look at. There are also videos showing the tasks being used in the classroom which is always helpful. We already have several of these tasks as “Bolt on” activities to our schemes of work but my hope is they become more embedded. How this works in practice is going to be something I need to think about.

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.