Category Archives: Handling Data

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.

333. Resource of the week

Just a quick resource for you today and apologies if you are already using this!


Not some new ‘youth slang’, but an amazing online tool. Students have an individual card with each side labelled A, B, C or D. You ask a multiple choice or True/False question, they hold up their card with their answer at the top, you scan the class set of cards.

Image credit:

It really is that simple and here is what to do to get started:

  1. Create a free account at
  2. Download the app to a portable device with a camera (phone, tablet etc)
  3. Print out the cards
  4. Allocate the cards to your class on the website
  5. Stick the cards in your students’ books
  6. Set a question
  7. Scan the cards

I have a tablet device that I use for school purposes as I keep my phone for personal use. The only problem I had was my android tablet doesn’t have a light source or as high quality camera as my phone, but we sorted that by having students move to a brighter part of the room for scanning. Instant feedback with no handheld devices!

Finally I have to say a huge thank you to Mr L, our trainee teacher, for introducing this to the Department.

330. Still Dancing Men

You may already know about my blog posts on the ‘Dancing Man’ cipher. If not, check them out here;

34. The Dancing Cipher

97. The Dancing Cipher (part two)

Now, I have two parallel classes and I want to set the Dancing Man project as a homework, but they’ll be doing the task at different, but overlapping times. I don’t want the second class to have an unfair advantage, so I’ve written a second task. All the instructions are the same, but it’s a different text. I’m not sure whether to give each class a different text or whether to randomly assign both texts within both classes to avoid copying/generate confusion.

This text is a little more interesting than the last one … think zombies!

You can download an advanced (Beta?) copy below and I’ll update you on how it went, after I’ve done it.

Dancing Men Project 2

Letter frequency analysis project answer B


318. Election Stats

Very quick post!

Image Credit: Pinterest

If you are doing any form of data work, here is a great website to discuss bad graphs.

Skepchick Bad Election graphs

My GCSE class loved it. The image above was also a head-scratcher – how can you explain what is going on?

314. Maths is a foreign language 

If I had £1 for every time I heard ‘I don’t get it!’, I could probably buy a new (modestly sized) car. That phrase is banned in my classroom. What does ‘get’ mean? What is ‘it’? Did you actually read the question?

And there we have it: reading the question.

Today’s little life skill strategy can work for all levels of literacy – because you don’t need any! I’ve taught a lot of students who just shut down when they see wordy questions and don’t look at the big picture – literally. There can be a really obvious diagram and they will skip the question. They just don’t try!

Now as you may be aware, I’m based in Wales in the UK. For those outside the UK, Wales is a principality within Great Britain. Although everyone speaks english, the traditional mother tongue is welsh – it’s particularly spoken in the North/West of the country. If you attend a welsh language school, you can do all your exams in welsh. A GCSE is called a TGAU.

But why am I telling you this?

Well, this means that the WJEC/CBAC exam board publishes their exam papers in welsh and english. Identical papers, different languages. I teach over the border in England, where only one or two students per year can speak welsh. This is where it gets interesting …

I went through a welsh language ‘Mathemateg’ paper and picked out the questions which involved diagrams – I also picked out the matching English questions so I was clear on the questions (not a native welsh speaker, just a learner). I gave my GCSE class the Welsh questions and told them to figure out what was going on. After the initial disbelief they had a really good go at the questions. Their comments included:

‘Well, it’s obvious it’s a tally chart’ 

‘Just fill in the table with the numbers from the pattern’

‘That’s got to be a special type of triangle’ (answer isn’t correct, but idea was)

‘Just use angles in a triangle to work it out’

I was impressed – they were constructively arguing about questions and covering diagrams in good maths. When we went over the questions they were telling me how easy it was, yet the week before they’d skipped questions like the angle problem in an assessment! I explained why I’d done it and told them they didn’t need to keep the worksheets as I’d made my point. I was stunned by the number of students who wanted to take them home to show their parents – they were proud of their problem solving – 16 year olds wanting to show off their Maths skills!

This idea can be used with any bilingual exam board or any language that you speak that the students don’t. It’s a good tool for getting over ‘question blindness ‘ and literacy confidence issues too.

These are the exam papers I used:


CBAC TGAU Mathemateg

If you look at the web addresses there is one digit difference to differentiate between the languages, meaning if you go on the WJEC english language website you can find the welsh equivalent by swapping a 0 for a 5 in the second to last digit.

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:
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’.

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:

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