Author Archives: admin

360. Preparing for online learning

A few tips for forward planning with Google Classroom in case of school closures, plus a few other hints and tips.

1. Check that all the correct students are on your Google Classroom class list – especially with leavers, joiners and set moves. Invite them by email if necessary. Same goes for other digital assessment platforms.

2. Check that the teachers of shared classes actually all have access to the classroom

3. Do not put everything on the Stream – it will get chaotic very quickly. Post all materials on the Classwork tab. It will automatically be put on the stream, but you will be able to categorise it.

This is an example of good practice. The classwork feed is set up with all the topics being taught, the shared teachers are identified and the tasks/resources are dated.

4. Check the functionality of your materials before you release a post to your class. If things don’t look right, convert it to a pdf. You can’t assume students have specific non-web based software. Also, you are looking to make it mobile phone friendly. The majority of kids have access to a smartphone, but you can’t assume computer access.

5. Make the most of embedding YouTube videos – copy the URL and paste it into the YouTube link when you create materials.

6. When creating assignments, think how students are going to assess – are you providing a markscheme? A link to a website with solutions or walk through? Is it a google form you can mark or auto-mark? A google doc or slide where you can actually mark each student’s work? An interactive website? Are they simply working in their regular book? In which case make sure they actually take it home.

7. Remember you can plan ahead by scheduling future tasks

8. If you want to use a digital textbook, but students don’t have access to it, you can ‘Snip’ the questions from the digital textbook and paste them into a Google Slides presentation or a document. This is probably slightly dodgy copyright wise, but if you can’t send every child home with a textbook during a school closure, it seems a reasonable stretch of copyright. You’d be using the physical books in your classroom if your school wasn’t closed.

9. It’s okay to model an answer on paper, take a photo/scan and upload it. There are many ways of doing this. Personally I use the Scribzee app as it doesn’t involve a computer and scanner.

10. Use it as an opportunity to share interesting maths with your class – the Parallel site, by Simon Singh is amazing. Also an ideal time to catch up with Numberphile videos and inspire future mathematicians.

11. I think Corbett Maths could be the main site for saving teacher sanity!

12. Exam classes are going to be tricky.
For GCSE classes sites like Mathsgenie are amazing. And don’t forget people like Access Maths, Piximaths and MsBsResources. Apologies to all the other awesome resource sites, not enough space to list them all.
For A-level Maths and Further Maths try Alevelmathsrevision and the AMSP (Further)

356. Edexcel Shadow Paper

Wow, it’s been a while since my last post. Apologies for that. I’ve been busy with Key Stage 5 things. One of my projects has been creating a shadow paper for the Edexcel AS Maths exam. With so few past papers available and so many papers available online, I wanted an assessment that my students couldn’t find the mark scheme for.

I’ve taken the AS Pure 2018 paper and created a shadow paper, with markscheme. Same level of difficulty, different numbers. I publicised it on Twitter and shared it with over ninety educators in 48 hours. I was stunned by the popularity of this resource. To keep it secure, the lovely Graham Cummings from @mathsemporium has arranged for it to be uploaded onto the Edexcel Maths Emporium. Now I don’t have to directly email people the files.

You can access it with an Edexcel teacher login here. If you don’t have a login, there are instructions on the page on how to obtain one.

I hope this paper saves you some time. I intend to start work on more Pure shadow papers soon, as Pure maths carries the heavier weighting in the AS and A-level exams.

355. Toyota logic

My fabulous colleague, Mr G, has recently been to the local Toyota factory to find out about the Lean model.

The key principles involve efficiency of process. He told me about a school using the Lean model that had tape diagonally along the spines. Students put their folders back in order and the teacher can instantly see if a file is missing. Genius!

Now I happened to be about to cover my textbooks with sticky back plastic. I put duct tape around the spine before covering them. Each book has tape 1cm lower than the previous.

Now you are thinking – that looks nice, but it will never work.

I’ve got news for you – every time I use the textbooks with my class of 34 Year 9 students, they put the books back in order. On the first day I made a big deal of how tidy the books looked and challenged them to put them back tidy. And they did – every lesson!

354. Iced gems

Just a quick idea today. You know the feeling when the multi-pack of sugar paper has dwindled down to just the brown. Great if you want to do trees, bleurgh if you want to do anything else.

I did a tarsia recap with Year 7. There were three different tasks going on and so I photocopied them onto three different colours of paper. The only colour of sugar paper was brown. We went with it. As the class finished their work, we discovered that their work looked like iced biscuits or iced gems. Hence our wall of Algebra Iced Gems:

Some of the cutting and sticking is a bit wobbly, but the class really enjoyed this task and we consolidated a considerable number of skills.

353. Large Data Display

If you teach A-level Maths in the UK, you will know about the prerequisite to know about the large data set for the statistics component. We use Edexcel and so need to know about eight weather locations.

Here is my Key Stage 5 corridor wall display.

I’ve got two maps – one of the World ( a freebie from the Humanities Dept) and one of the UK (£2.95 from Amazon).

I’ve included summary information from the CrashMaths booklet.

Of course, you can’t talk about UK weather data from the storm of 1987 – Michael Fish makes a special appearance.

352. Functions refresher

We recently finished teaching the AS Maths syllabus to Year 12. My colleague and I decided how to split up the start of the second year of the course. I’m starting with the modulus function.

I took one look at the skills needed at thought “Uh-oh”. The students are going to be out of practice with this. They are a lovely group, with a wide range of ability, but we’ve been very focussed on Applied Maths recently.

Option A: Go for it and patch up the vocabulary as we go (getting very frustrated – they knew this last October)

Option B: Break them in gently, recap the skills and vocabulary and extend them further

Option C: Reteach the work from last October.

Yes, you guessed it. I went with Option C. I found a brilliant task on piecewise function graphs on the Underground Maths website.

Image credit:

There are four graphs given. The basic task is to interpret the functions relating to each graph, through description or function.

I photocopied the graphs onto card and sliced them up. Each group had a set of cards. One person described a graph and the others had to accurately draw it. Some students went straight onto squared paper, others drafted it out on mini whiteboards. They repeated this until all the graphs were drawn and everyone had had a go at describing (the describer stuck in their card, so that they had a complete set). Whilst they were doing this, I moved around and encouraged the use of mathematical vocabulary.

Note: it was interesting to see how many students had forgotten the significance of open and shaded circles to denote boundaries of inequalities.

The second task was to match up the function cards with the graphs. Once again, accuracy was key as not all graphs had functions and not all functions had graphs. There were also some that nearly, but not quite matched. This activity really brought out the key skills relating to domain, range and function notation that I was looking for. The extension task was to complete the missing pairs.

But, did it work? I can confirm that the following lesson the class made very good progress investing the modulus function and it’s graph, even going as far to solve equations. They knew what the notation meant, how to plot it and how to interpret the graphs.

I really like the Underground Maths website as it has great resources, good support material and always makes students think. Most of the time it gets teachers thinking too!

351. No more glue sticks

Apologies for the infrequent blog posts. Life happens.

I thought I’d share an inspired idea that I saw on Twitter. AJSmith (@MrSmithRE) shared this brilliant video on how to efficiently use hole punched exercise books.

Hole punching exercise books

I converted to using A4 exercise books with Year 11 in September and the improvement was amazing. From low ability students who wanted to bin their Year 10 notes (Do I have to keep them?), to so much pride in their work that they are still using their A4 exercise books for personal study and revision whilst on study leave.

Now I’ve seen this video on tagging notes together, this could be a game changer. Fewer sheets stuck in means fewer pages filled with stuck in sheets, which means the books will last longer. So the Department saves on the cost of both glue sticks and exercise books. Those infuriating students who seem incapable of sorting out their books have got one less excuse now.

I plan on using this with my new Year 10 class in September – they are the exact opposite of my previous GCSE group, so this should make for an interesting comparison. I’ll feedback how it goes.

Now go and watch that video and start saving for an industrial strength hole punch.