Monthly Archives: November 2015

289. The secret formula for success

You may remember this advert for Frosties cereal (US Frosted Flakes) from your childhood. If you do you’ve been around as long as me:

What was Tony’s secret formula? We never found out!

Enough reminiscing I hear you cry! How does this help anyone?

Well, in the new GCSE exam specifications the formulae sheets have gone. Specific formulae may be given in an individual question, but due to the lack of a working crystal ball we don’t know the frequency with which this will happen. To help with this I have typed up the Edexcel formulae into a PowerPoint. You can print it out and put it around the room, you could have a formula of the week, you could leave a slideshow running while students work, you could even print it small on card and make a pack of flashcards. Mine are laminated and hanging from a washing line, I’m going to move them around so that students have a varied view.

Whatever you do, increased familiarity improves retention – just think back to the posters you regularly saw as a child. I have made different versions for different situations – Edexcel vs no exam board, white background vs pale blue background, pdf vs pptx. Download whichever version you need:

Edexcel No Formulae Sheet blue (pptx)

Edexcel No Formulae sheet wihite (pptx)

Edexcel No Formulae Sheet blue (pdf)

Edexcel No Formulae Sheet white (pdf)

GCSE No Formulae Sheet blue (pptx)

GCSE No Formulae Sheet white (pptx)

GCSE No Formulae Sheet blue (pdf)

GCSE No Formulae Sheet white (pdf)

288. Seriously, when am I going to use this?

Oh, that question … heard often from the mouths of those who will not go on to study Maths at a higher level! But when it’s more able students who can’t see the necessity of fundamental principles … Well, that’s a bit worrying.

M’colleague, Mr D, has nailed the answer to this question. When I say ‘nailed’ I obviously mean ‘stuck’ and he has literally* stuck the answer on the wall.
*Note: Mathematician using correct definition of literally.

Here you go:


If you zoom in on this student work, on A2 Differentiation, you can see that he has annotated all the skills used and when you first meet them in the curriculum:


Such a simple idea to tie together seemingly unrelated parts of the Maths curriculum. It also reinforces the need to keep all basic skills sharp.

I’d say it was genius, but then I’d never hear the end of it!

287. Post-It Hints

There are so many uses for post it notes … this is just one example


Image source:

But have you considered them as an extra tool in your SEN kit?

Students with Irlens syndrome benefit from coloured overlays, coloured glasses and coloured worksheets. Some students refuse to wear tinted lenses and depend on overlays. These students have developed coping strategies which work most of the time, but when they get stuck what do you do? If a concept needs a bit of extra explaining I usually grab a bit of standard white paper and run through it one-to-one. Obviously having coloured exercise books and paper would be great, but day to day teaching (and changing classroom) make this tricky.

So, what to do?

Well, you could write on white paper, then keep putting the overlay on top as you explain each step. It works, but it is a bit of a faff and draws attention to the fact the student uses an overlay. However, if you know a student benefits from coloured filters, keep a pack of appropriately coloured post-it notes to hand. The coloured background should quieten the movement of the writing on the paper, the note can be stuck in their book immediately and they don’t have to copy anything out.

Disclaimer: I am not an Irlens specialist. Post-it notes come in so many colours, however you may not find a perfect match to your students preference. This is about helping out in a mid-class situation, not replacing diagnosed resources.