Monthly Archives: July 2014

226. Summer Sand

Well, it’s time for the Sandpit to head for the Seaside! All the fun activities have been saved up for the Autumn term so make sure you come back in September.


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Before we pack up our classrooms I’d like to reflect on what this time of year means. Our students have received their end of year reports, enjoyed Sports Day and promised to keep in contact with each over the Summer. Our colleagues have briefed next year’s teacher on their new classes, updated schemes of work and sorted out what planning needs to be done over the Summer ready for September. But what about those staff who aren’t coming back?

I’ve recently been to both a leaving event and a retirement event. In that last week in school we should make sure we tell our friends how much we appreciate them, no matter how busy we are.

I’d especially like to wish L all the best as she moves to the other side of the country. If anyone wanted to meet an outstanding teacher who cares about every child they teach and supports their colleagues no matter what, then L would be that teacher. Good luck!

225. Surveying the Monkeys

Designing good survey questions is an excellent way to discuss bias and structure, however carrying out the survey is always the tricky bit.

  • Do you ask the class next door? Always seems more of a social exercise than work
  • Do you set it as homework? Bit hit and miss: mum, dad, nan, dog & a couple of fictional people
  • Do you survey your form? Will they take it seriously?

No matter how you do it, the results are always sparse and barely useable for a data processing task. How can you get a reasonable data set, generated by pupils, for pupils to use?

I’ve mentioned SurveyMonkey in a previous blog post. It is an online data collection tool with free and subscription services.  I asked my Year 9 pupils to write five themed questions, which I then typed into SurveyMonkey. Each set of questions was on a separate page.



I then used our home/school communication system to email a link to the survey to every pupil in their year group, with a covering email. You could distribute the link by asking your fellow maths teachers to tell their classes.

I set the first page of the survey as a list of maths teachers. When my class did the survey they were taken to a class list which they ticked off their name and then did the survey. All other classes were taken straight to the survey. In this way the survey results are anonymous, but I know whether my class have completed it (this was their homework). After two weeks we had 100 completed surveys, out of about 200 pupils. This is an amazing completion rate!

While the data was being collected we looked at data processing skills that would be necessary to collate and process the results. The image below is a sample of the collected data printed from Excel.



After the results were in I printed out a copy of each set of questions and an Excel spreadsheet of their survey results for each group. The themes chosen were: Movies, Music, Shopping, Animals & Sport.


It’s now time for my class to report back on their theme, after dealing with a large data set with anomalies and relate it to their year group. When they have finished I will add a picture of their wall displays. I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop their ideas.

224. No Nonsense Negatives

Ever had a simple idea for a starter which your class just flies with? It happened today for me:

In the previous lesson students understood the meaning of ‘y=mx+c’, but struggled to rearrange equations in this form. With this in mind, I went back to the basics of manipulating calculations.

Starter question 1
Make as many calculations as you can only using the numbers 2, 3 & 5 (once each) and any symbol you like. The obvious answer is 2+3=5.

Starter question 2
Make as many calculations as you can only using the numbers 3, 6 & 18 (once each) and any symbol you like. The obvious answer is 3×6=18.

The Extension
Most groups quickly found three solutions for each question. Some even used inequalities. To extend their understanding I suggested that they could use as many of each symbol as they wished – would a sprinkling of minus signs increase the number of results?

The following pictures show the ideas my class came up with. I was using lolly sticks to randomly pick students and no one wanted to be the first to not give an answer.

Followed by:

We discussed the rearrangements and linked them to rearranging equations. They appreciated that one equation could be written in many different ways. This activity would work equally well to consolidate negative numbers.