Tag Archives: display

355. Toyota logic

My fabulous colleague, Mr G, has recently been to the local Toyota factory to find out about the Lean model.

The key principles involve efficiency of process. He told me about a school using the Lean model that had tape diagonally along the spines. Students put their folders back in order and the teacher can instantly see if a file is missing. Genius!

Now I happened to be about to cover my textbooks with sticky back plastic. I put duct tape around the spine before covering them. Each book has tape 1cm lower than the previous.

Now you are thinking – that looks nice, but it will never work.

I’ve got news for you – every time I use the textbooks with my class of 34 Year 9 students, they put the books back in order. On the first day I made a big deal of how tidy the books looked and challenged them to put them back tidy. And they did – every lesson!

347. Maximising space

As you start to plan the layout of your (new) classroom, I have a handy little tip for you. It’s really useful to have key dates up in the room, but where to put them. Print them out and you lose valuable wall display space, odds are you’ll forget to update it during the year. Put it on the whiteboard and you risk some scamp (or over enthusiastic colleague) wiping them off the board.

How about a blackboard?

This is sticky back blackboard vinyl that you can get very cheaply from places like ‘The Works’ or Amazon. You can cut it to size and put it on any flat surface. I’ve put it on the back of my desk and used chalk pens. Once they dry they take some effort to remove.

Students have already noticed it and have said they like having a big picture of what’s going on next term.

326. Instant whiteboard

Welcome back to school!

I must say your display boards look lovely …

What’s that? You could do with another whiteboard

Why would you need that? They’re not cheap you know!

To help you actually teach? You’ve never needed the space before…

Oh … you have needed the space … you have raised this before …you’re still waiting …

Why didn’t you say! I’ll put you on the list for when we have some spare funds & time

You know the feeling – you could do with more space, but there just aren’t the funds to do anything about it. I initially needed an extra notice board because two form groups were going to use my room. We have a split lunch and I thought it only fair to give the other tutor some space. The idea of those ‘magic whiteboards’ was nice, but they are flimsy and expensive. They’re also pretty useless when you have a rough breeze block wall. Rummaging around Amazon I found some extra thick sticky back whiteboard roll, which was half the price of the ‘magic’ ones. There are a lot of different makes and sizes of roll depending on your needs. I bought a long narrow roll and cut it in half: it fits splendidly on my double doors. The quality is good too, however I think they’ll need a bit more TLC than a heavy duty whiteboard.

So, I’m feeling rather chuffed by my ingenuity when I discover they’ve changed our form rooming and I’m no longer sharing with another form. Nevermind – one board for form notices and one board for homework reminders!

If you like the look of mine it was by Rabbitgoo on Amazon. They are different sizes and prices so I haven’t put a specific link. The description of the one I bought is: Thick Whiteboard Chalkboard Wall Sticker 44.5cm×200cm Thickness:0.18mm

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!

259. Squashed Tomatoes

If you taught in England while mathematical coursework still existed, this post may not be new to you. However those who did not may be pleasantly surprised by the simple complexity of ‘Squashed Tomatoes’!

To investigate a growth pattern, which follows a simple rule.


  • Squared paper
  • Coloured pens/pencils
  • Ruler & pencil

Imagine a warehouse full of crates of tomatoes. One crate in the middle goes rotten. After an hour it infects the neighbouring crates which share one whole crate side. This second generation of rot infects all boxes which share exactly one side. Once a box is rotten it can only infect for an hour, then ceases to affect others. This sounds complicated, but trust me … it’s simple!

Picture Rules

The first box goes rotten – colour in one square to represent the crate. The noughts represent the squares it will infect.

Tomato 1

The second set of crates becomes rotten – use a different colour. The noughts represent what will become rotten next:

tomato 2

The third set of crates becomes rotten – change colour again. At this point it is useful to tell students to keep track of how many crates go rotten after each hour and how many are rotten in total:

tomato 3

The fourth set of crates forms a square:

tomato 4The fifth hour returns the pattern to adding one to each corner:

tomato 5

The sixth hour adds three onto each corner:

tomato 6

Now you can continue this pattern on for as big as your paper is. Students can investigate the rate of growth of rot or the pattern of rot per hour. As the pattern grows, the counting can get tricky. This is when my students started spotting shortcuts. They counted how many new squares were added onto each ‘arm’ and multiplied by number of ‘arms’.


Here are some examples of my students work:


This is a lovely part-completed diagram:

This piece of work includes a table of calculations – you can see the pattern of 1s, 4s and multiples of 12.

This is just amazing – you can see that alternate squares are coloured (except for the centre arms).

On this large scale you can see the fractal nature of this investigation.

Extension: Does this work for other types of paper? Isometric? Hexagonal?

189. Revision just flies by

I take absolutely no credit for this cute revision idea – japanese peace cranes for revision.

My class have a test next week and I gave them half an hour of directed independent study. Using their revision lists they could use their notes or textbooks to try questions or create a revision resource. I was expecting posters, maybe booklets … then one of the girls asked if could they make a crane for revision and hang off revision notes. Bearing in mind we have a 2m algebra tree in the room, I thought an industrial crane with notes hanging off it could be good.

How wrong I was!

Two girls started folding origami cranes – they’d learnt how for a school project. They then wrote maths facts on the wings. The idea was calmimg, yet contagious!

The idea slowly spread across the room. Soon about half the class were folding cranes and writing notes. Someone even found some coloured paper.


Now there is a small flock of cranes flying across the room which will hopefully remind pupils of the notes they wrote.

If you want instructions on how to fold an origami crane try this YouTube video.