Monthly Archives: April 2013

71. Algebra with a dash of probability

If you are on the Ikea Family mailing list you may have got a booklet with this a few months ago:


It’s basically a decision spinner in the form of a hexagonal prism. On the reverse you are asked to customise it:


Being a maths geek I thought about writing algebraic expressions. You can customise the difficulty for individual pupils.


All the pupils do is roll a standard die and the prism. Then they substitute that value into the expression.


You can increase the difficulty by using a variety of non-standard dice.

All you need is a strip of card – say 12cm long and some tape.
Rule off every two centimetres, fill in the gaps, fold and stick.

There are two probability questions to consider:

Is the roller fair?

The Ikea one wasn’t due to the cardboard flaps weighting one side. Over-enthusiastic taping could have a similar effect.

How do you know when you have had all the possible combinations of number and expression?

This could be a nice way to think about listing outcomes and sample space diagrams.

Once you start thinking of ways to use these dice rollers, it is amazing how many topics you could cover.

70. Low Tech Hi Tech

In earlier posts I’ve mentioned team challenges and relays.

There are two ways to record the results.

Low Tech


Everytime a pupil team gets an answer correct give them a post-it note. I put team numbers on the notes to avoid cheating. They are responsible for sticking their note in the correct place.

Note: some brands of sticky note don’t stick to whiteboards that well, so you may want to use a table.

Hi Tech

When a team get a question correct they put a 1 in a box on a spreadsheet. Conditional formatting allows you to highlight correct answers. In the picture, the first column is the total for each team so they can see who is in the lead. You can also set it up to highlight the current leaders. This method also allows you to quickly identify problem areas.

69. GCSE Inspiration

I saw this link posted on Twitter by @TeacherToolkit and just had to share it.

This is a video by David McQueen (@DavidMcQueen) inspiring pupils to be the best they can in their exams:

I dare you to be magnificent

If you teach an exam class or are a form tutor to an exam year, you NEED to watch this!

68. Another GCSE revision idea

You will be surprised to hear that this activity doesn’t involve cutting up a GCSE paper! See Foundation GCSE student review and How to make GCSE past papers fun.

Digital version of a GCSE (or A-Level or Functional Skills) paper
Individual whiteboards & pens
Digital projector

Set up
Split the class into groups of 4-6. They will need a whiteboard each. Allocate a team number/letter or name. Project the first question on the screen.

Use the GCSE paper to set (part of) a question for the class.
They all answer on their whiteboards and hold up the answer when you say.

The beauty of this method is you can adapt the questions to the understanding of the class and focus on specific skills, as opposed to issuing a paper version and going through every question.

It’s quite common for a few bright/strong characters to take over team games, unless you can find a way to avoid this. The scoring is quite easy.

2 points if every member of the group gets the answer right.

1 point for each team, if more than one team is 100% correct.

You may think that this will encourage copying, but there is a third score:

-1 point if you can’t explain your answer

This means teams must work together to ensure everyone understands the solution. After all, these are exam questions which may take several minutes to complete. There is little value in using this as a revision tool if pupils don’t progress – which is where the peer explanation comes in.

My class really enjoyed doing this on Friday as preparation for their end of year eams. It allowed me to pick out the most appropriate revision questions, without running up the photocopying bill!

67. Banquet Challenge

Anyone else end up getting out the pencil and paper when you try to figure out the instructions on a supermarket ready meal banquet?


Some companies take you through the cooking process step by step. Others tell you how to cook each individual part, but not how the timings overlap. It occurred to me that this creates a nice Functional Skills/Time problem. You could even develop this into a critical path analysis problem.

Example: Mexican Banquet


Chicken & vegetable mix: 2mins 30secs
Tortillas: 20secs
Chilli: 5 minutes

Potato wedges: 15mins
Quesadilla: 10mins

If you want to eat at 7pm, what time should you start cooking?

What time does each item go on?

Assume that only one item can be put in the microwave at once, but the oven can fit more.

66. Manga High


Just a quick post today. If you don’t already use Manga High, it’s worth a look. There is no charge for schools to create accounts and can be quite addictive/competitive – I’ve found some of my most disengaged pupils arguing over who was going to get a bronze medal first.

65. Survey Monkey


If you need to collect a lot of data or want to encourage pupils to consider how data collection can be carried out then Survey Monkey is the website for you.

A basic membership is free: it allows you to create and carry out a 10 question survey online.

A paid for membership allows you to customise your survey and download the results. The survey can be longer than 10 questions.

I’ve introduced SurveyMonkey to the staff where I teach. We have used it to survey pupils on their opinions of feedback/marking in books, pupil experience of IT, staff implementation of IT, feedback from CPD sessions, data collection for Masters research and even collecting food orders for parents evening!

In class, you could also use it to start a discussion on bias, types of question, how appropriate different charts are and why companies use sites like SurveyMonkey to collect consumer data.