# 335. The power of colour

As Mathematicians we appreciate the importance of getting the basics right and building a firm foundation. With this in mind I’ve been an absolute harridan with my Y8 students regarding presentation and technique for solving equations. If they can nail good algebraic presentation now, their future studies will be be much easier.

When we started there were students doing everything in their head, not always correctly. Some insisted on working backwards, which is great for basic cases but not for unknowns on both sides. Most frustratingly some students were breaking up the logic by putting extra working out between steps and losing track of what they were doing.

For example:

2x – 10 = 5x + 8

5x – 2x = 3x

3x – 10 = 8

So we had a really good discussion about logical presentation. We decided to write down what we were doing in the margin, try and keep the = sign lined up in the working and put any extra working out on the right.

This worked really well for most of the class, but I had a small group of students who just lost track of what they were doing and why. They knew things had to balance, but struggled to cope with equations with an unknown on both sides.

While I was talking things over with them using a mini whiteboard, I noticed they had a profusion of coloured pens and highlighters. Bring on the colour!

By highlighting the key point of each line of algebra and matching it with the balancing step they started to build the structure of good solutions. It was slow work to start with, but a couple of lessons later and these same struggling students are now hitting the extension work every time. And most of them no longer feel the need to highlight key information.

# 316. What should I revise?

Hands up all those who have challenged an underperforming teenager and got any of the following replies:

“I’ll do it with my tutor”

“Why aren’t we revising <unrealistic topic>?”

“It’s okay, I’ve got a tutor”

“It doesn’t matter what I do in class, I’ll do it with X”

“I don’t need to revise fractions (even though they can’t do them)”

“My tutor says this work is too easy for me”

“I don’t want to revise solving equations, I can’t do them”

“I’ve been doing cosine rule with my tutor (not even on the tier they are doing)”

“I’ve never done this (yes, you have but you talked through it every time we did it)”

“My mum says my tutor says I should be doing Higher”

“My tutor wants past papers”

Now don’t get me wrong, I know some amazing tutors – they know their maths, they are up to date with curriculum changes and they make a real difference. I also teach amazing kids who try their best all the time.

What really irritates me is the students who use tutors as an excuse for laziness and the tutors who teach complex topics but fail to reinforce the basics. So to combat this issue I’ve put together this PowerPoint – it got the message through to the students I was worried about in Year 11.

What should you revise (pptx)

# 271. Bored with exponentials

I have a Pi-loving colleague who is a whizz with voting presentations.

Mr D created these review activities for use with A2/C3 students. The focus is logarithms, exponentials and Ln functions, including models for growth and decay. I particularly like the equation measuring boredness in a Maths lesson. It’s obviously wrong – how could a Maths lesson possibly be boring?

Exponentials and logs review (pptx)

Exponentials and logs review (ppt)

Optional Variation

We paired up this presentation with Qwizdom voting handsets. If you don’t have them, you could try out Socrative and turn students’ mobile phones into voting handsets

# 262. Percentage Building Blocks

A quick reverse percentages resource for you. I explain reverse percentages by using both calculations and diagrams. These resources can be used as a starter activity or as a selective discussion point. The presentations are editable and the pdf is identical to them. I hope they are useful in addressing the reverse percentages misconceptions!

# 231. Fish Shop Maths

I’ve been using this idea since I first started teaching and I’ve finally got around to typing it up!

Image Credit:http://coachandhorsesn16.com/eat/fish-n-chips/

I introduce order of operations by creating an imaginary Chip Shop. I usually read out orders and get the students to write down what they think they are on whiteboards. Note that when you read out the orders, the punctuation doesn’t give any hints.

• ‘Two fish and three chips’ – 2 fish & 3 portions of chips
• ‘Fish and chips twice’ – 2 fish & 2 portions of chips or 1 fish & 2 portions of chips
• ‘Five sausage and chips’ – 5 sausages & 5 portions of chips or 5 sausages & 1 portion of chips

This activity always prompts a ‘discussion’ as to who is correct. The misconception of what an order could mean links nicely with the misconception when working out 2 + 3 x 4. You could also adapt the idea for writing algebraic expressions.