# 361. Routes, Reindeer & Reasoning

Well, we are nearly at the end of a very crazy year. Congratulations on surviving it!

So, it’s been a while since the last blog post. Apologies for that. At the moment I am involved in Mixed Attainment teaching with Year 8. To finish off the term, I thought we deserved a bit of fun. We have a week of lessons left so I’m going for a mini project each lesson.

Lesson 1: Santa’s Route
I found this fab task on the Maths Drill website. There is a real chance for extension in this task, which is great for the mixed attainment classroom.

Lesson 2: Reindeer Ratios (Updated 13th Dec)
We have been following the White Rose Maths scheme for Year 8, which covers a lot of proportion and reasoning through ratio, multiplicative change and fractions. This task tries to cover some of these skills. The answers will be uploaded soon.

Lesson 3: Elf Box Packing Problem (Updated 14th Dec) Elf Box Packing Problem Solutions
This task involves using multiplicative change and fractional multiplication and division, with a dash of unit conversion. There is some work on shapes, but formulae are given where necessary. The first four pages print nicely into a folded A4 (A5) booklet. There is a help sheet for the box packing problem; this would be better printed on A4.

# 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)

# 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.

# 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.

# 345. Practical percentage skills

It’s perfectly obvious that fluency in the use of multiplication tables directly impacts students ability to divide. This grows into confidence with algebra and reverse operations. Students are able to see the links between the concepts. Our understanding of the importance of such skills is part of the success of programmes such as TTRockstars and Numeracy Ninjas.

Why is it then that so many textbooks, websites and resource banks keep the manipulation of percentages as separate skills sets? Percentage increase / Percentage change / Reverse percentages. We know that when concepts overlap, fluency increases when these links are pursued. So that’s what I set out to do.

I have a bright Year 8 class and started working on percentages with them. It didn’t take much to have them confident using equivalent decimal multipliers to find percentages of amounts. Using a multiplier for increase/decrease was a walk in the park. Then finding percentage change came up. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of students get very confused with half remembered methods:

“Which do I take away?”

“What number do I divide by?”

“Is this calculation the right way around?”

I tend to teach new value divided by old value and interpret the answer. It got me thinking – why am I teaching them this? They can increase by a percentage using a multiplier, why can’t they rearrange their working to find the actual percentage? Same goes for reversing a percentage.

After a good discussion, I used this worksheet to recap and develop their skills:

Percentages Linking concepts questions

Warning: “Original Amount” section, question (d) is a tricky one.

As with all new approaches, it’s always good to see if it worked. I set the following task from Don Steward’s website:

MEDIAN percent problems

I have GCSE students who wouldn’t know where to start on those questions, yet my Year 8 with their ‘have a go’ attitude were absolutely awesome. I’m definitely using this method again!

# 342. Revision jotters

With the exams looming large, I thought I’d share how my class have been revising. To give you some context roughly a third of the class are doing Foundation GCSE, aiming for at least a Grade 4. The rest are doing Higher and aiming for a Grade 5 or better. We have three, one hour, lessons a week. I’m rotating between doing an exam paper, a whole class revision activity (eg a revision clock) and tiered revision.

I know if I tell the students to revise independently the results are going to be mixed. Some will be brilliant, some will be more laid back. To resolve this I pick a topic (or two) from each tier that I know they need to improve on from or that they have requested. It’s helpful if there is a theme to the work. I’ve recently done things like y=mx+c (F) with plotting inequalities (H).

Now the genius part: PixiMaths revision jotters

How to run the session

Photocopy a big stack of revision jotters. If you are doing black and white copying, use the b&w version. We requested the b&w version and, because PixiMaths is awesome, it is now on the website.

Clearly put on the board which topic each tier is revising

Eg Foundation: exact trig values, Higher: trig graphs

Give students 5-10 minutes to fill their revision jotters with everything they know. Have textbooks or maths dictionaries available to fill in the gaps. You may find that Higher students want to do the Foundation topic too – no problem, just make sure they have two jotters. Due to the complexity of the Higher topic, they will need more time to make initial notes.

My students are allowed headphones in revision sessions. At this point it’s headphones in for Higher and out for Foundation.

Do a skills recap on the board (exact trig values), with maybe an exam question too. Students can ask questions on the topic and add to their jotter. Then have a worksheet for students to do eg Corbett Maths or KeshMaths GCSE exam questions booklets. They can refer to their revision jotter or scan the Corbett Maths QR code for extra help.

Swap over. Headphones in for Foundation and out for Higher.

Repeat the process for Higher, with drawing trigonometric graphs. Issue an appropriate worksheet.

Once you’re done, make a judgement call. Are there students who could push it further? Maybe transform a trig graph or problem solve? Go for it. Foundation are busy, Higher are busy, spend some time stretching your most able. Every mark counts.

A huge thank you to PixiMaths for the revision jotters (and everything else).

Examples of students’ work

Shared with permission of students. You can see that they have personalised them to meet their needs and some are a work in progress. Also, the b&w jotter photocopies so nicely.

# 334. Frustrating worksheets

Now, I’m straying from my usual positivity today because I’m frustrated by a worksheet. It was set for the eldest in Primary School as non-calculator classwork to be finished at home for homework. Topic is straightforward enough: Percentage Problem solving.

First gripe: I don’t think the teacher had time to check whether the later questions were suitable to be non-calculator. There were divisions my KS4 students would baulk at. Fair enough, we’re all human, we’ve probably all misjudged an activity like that.

Main gripe: this was a paid for resource. The Primary school will be paying a yearly subscription for these worksheets and I think they are being written by someone who actually doesn’t understand percentages. Someone is being paid for writing poorly worded questions.

But it gets better (or worse depending on your viewpoint). The last question is just … Well, let’s just say I’m not a fan. I was so annoyed I picked up pencil and paper and did it myself.

The set up asks you what percentage a tree must grow by each year, if it needs to reach a certain height by a certain year. Any decent student should know that percentage is proportional and thus it will grow in proportion to its existing height each year. That’s a compound percentage problem.

I remind you this is a 10 year old without a calculator doing this work. They calculated the required growth, divided by years and multiplied by 100. The result was a recurring decimal!

I assumed compound growth and worked out the answer as 20%.

I think the person writing the question added on 20% each year, then put their final answer in the question. That is a rubbish understanding of what a child would have to do to solve the problem.

As a teacher, I am fuming that schools’ valuable depleting budgets are being wasted on dross like this. I’d like to say this is the first worksheet from this online provider with questionable mathematical knowledge, but it isn’t. A teacher has trusted that the resource they printed out was accurate and useable and will now have to go back over this in class.

Of course critics will say that the teacher should have thoroughly checked every question, but this is the real world. If there was time to do that then there wouldn’t be companies making money from charging for resources.