309. Christmaths news

Hello lovely people!

Unfortunately, due to work (i.e. being a full time teacher) I haven’t had time to upload my recent ideas or resources, however the usual service should resume after Christmas. Speaking of which – don’t forget to check out the Christmaths resources on the site:

Christmaths Cheer


308. Zombie stats

I’ve used word length analysis for years as a source of comparative statistics. The concept is easy – you take a children’s book and a grown up book and compare the word lengths of the first 20, 40, 80 words. After you collect the information in a table, you can use this data to compare averages and the range.

Image credit: www.comingsoon.net
But what texts to use? Well – you can’t beat a bit of Dr Seuss, but what grown up text could you use. I can highly recommend this extract from ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame Smith

Not only will you be investigating mathematical concepts, but you might just be inspiring a student to pick up a book and read.
Update: If you use the first chapter (say thirty words) of ‘Pride & Prejudice & Zombies’ you get some interesting data. The range is wide, but the highest frequency word length is just two. It’s a great conversation piece – why does this happen? The language is a very precise parody of 19th prose with all the correct connectives and no contractions eg ‘it is’ not ‘it’s’.

307. ‘Why don’t you …?’ Mathsconf8

I finally did it – I ran a session at Mathsconf8, in Kettering! The theme was ‘Why don’t you…?’, inspired by the 1980s UK kids show:

The idea was why don’t you put down the textbook, step away from the worksheet and get your students involved in doing Maths rather than have it done to them. I have to thank the participants for being up for a laugh and getting fully involved. Because it was a hands on session, all the notes needed for the activities are downloadable in a booklet.

‘Why don’t you…?’ booklet (pdf)

Have fun!

Additional link: Crisp people

306. Robson to the Rescue – a classroom essential

Here in the UK there are major curriculum changes going on. There is new content in the curriculum – unless you are a certain age, in which case it’s old stuff coming back. All the current class textbooks will be missing chunks of the syllabi and who can afford to buy class sets of new ones. Canny teachers are filling the gaps with worksheets and booklets. However that in class reference for these topics is an issue.

I thought I’d get a few class maths dictionaries – you know, the little pocket sized ones. Dead-end: no one publishes them anymore. Then I thought ‘Just get standard Maths dictionaries’: no chance, they are over £10 each. I saw a celebrity endorsed child’s Maths support book in my local discount store, bright and colourful, only £5 … except it didn’t have the content for GCSE. I was about to give up when a search of Amazon took me back to 1979…

Peter Robson published his Maths Dictionary through Newby books back in 1979.

It’s got the new curriculum fairly well covered too. The diagrams date it a little, but for roughly £4 it is a little gem.There are not only facts, but examples and diagrams in an unintimidating fashion. It’s also a handy A5 booklet size.

I’ve bought one for each of my group tables. It’s available from lots of online retailers, including a bulk discount for 10 or more on Amazon. I’d suggest getting one for yourself to review and then leave in your desk drawer for general reference.

The ISBN is: 978-1-872686-18-9

Thank you Mr Robson 

305. Get Carter

Seriously, you need to Get Carter ….

Get Carter 1971 Poster

Or rather head over to the amazing website by Mr Darren Carter: MrCarterMaths.com

I don’t know where to start – in a few clicks you have access to tiered questions on a multitude of topics with answers. Answer in an exercise book or on a mini whiteboard – it’s genius! Another click and the questions change.

If that wasn’t enough, you can print out individual worksheets at each level – differentiation without a headache.

I chose to print out the three tiers and award them points. Bronze = 1 point, Silver = 2 points, Gold = 3 points. I put together a cover sheet with instructions and the students instantly had control of their homework. All I asked for was 20 points of answers. The ones who need the practise can do lots of low scoring questions, the ones who need a challenge can do fewer questions at a harder level. My task is available to download below (full credit to Mr Carter given) – It prints nicely as an A5 booklet.

Tiered Proportion Homework Booklet

Once you’ve visited the site, follow him on Twitter @MrCarterMaths

304. S1 Revision Clock

If you are a regular on Twitter you may have seen some of the many revision clocks being shared. Basically 12 questions, 5 minutes each. Students can revise up to twelve different skills, under timed conditions, hence improving exam technique. My favourites are from the lovely Mel & Jo (@just_maths & @mathsjem). Not to be confused with Mel & Sue! (Random British humour/baking reference).

teaching_wall_clock_cafepressImage credit: www.cafepress.co.uk

  • Mel’s blog post on revision clocks can be found here: Just Maths
  • Jo’s collection of revision clock resources can be found here: Resourceaholic
  • Don’t skip these links – they are good!

Now I used one of the C2 revision clocks with Y12. It was an eye-opener: some students were excellent at managing their time, some rushed the questions and wanted to move on (hence not checking their work and making daft avoidable mistakes like they have all year!), others gradually improved their time efficiency and a few ignored the time constraint and sat stuck on one question, when there were so many other questions they could have excelled at. Constructive feedback all round!

So I decided that we would do the same for Statistics. I put together a set of questions from Edexcel testbase – full credit to them is given on the sheets. They challenged my students due to the need for accuracy in calculations and the sheer laziness of not wanting to look up formulae. If you want to do the same, just download the resources here:

S1 revision clock (pdf)

S1 revision clock Answers (pdf)

You will also need to print the answer sheet onto A3: Answer sheet courtesy of JustMaths

303. Extra, extra, read all about it!

It’s that time of year again – end of year assessments. You do everything you can for your students, including ensuring all students get their SEN entitlement … but have you ever wondered if extra time actually works? Can you prove to a student that staying those extra 15 minutes is worth it? Does your SEN co-ordinator ask for evidence?


Image credit: Paper Mate Flair (my favourite felt tips as a child, now relaunched)

Now, let’s make this clear – I’m not fussy about pen colour in marking and I’d never penalise a student for not having a fancy colour pen. Student work in blue or black is fine by me.

Back to the extra time element. When extra time kicks in, get your students to change pen colour. At the end total up the marks gained in regular pen and the marks gained in coloured pen. Total them up and you have your assessment result. You also have what they would have got if they hadn’t had extra time. You have just got evidence for the SEN department and you can demonstrate whether it made a difference.

In conclusion, I did this with my Y12 students and for two students it showed they can do the work, they just needed processing time – it made a two grade difference!