The wonderful NRICH site from the University of Cambridge which offers outstanding free enrichment resources for teachers and students has a new look. (Old links still work.) I like the design of the new website – a clean and modern feel which seems simple to navigate. Simply choose the stage required from Teachers’ or Students’ menus on the front page.

Choosing Secondary under Teachers for example includes a link (under Collections) to an excellent stage 3 and 4 curriculum page which suggest NRICH activities by curriculum topic. Also, very usefully, activities are listed by mathematical processes such as Thinking Strategically and Working Systematically. Note also the link to the (updated) mapping document which is very valuable when searching for activities.

Evernote – an outstanding note-taking tool and something I use every day. I have a notebook for each of my classes to which I upload any resources I want for that class. I also note down any ideas for lessons or reminders relevant to that class. It is also a good way to share for example a list of websites with students – using a shared notebook.

WordPress – obviously – you are reading a WordPress blog right now! I have several other blogs, Games, Starters and Mathematics Tools for example. I find a blog such as this an excellent way to share information with colleagues and students. For students I have recently created a new blog and something I am very pleased with is a blog I use to give the details of homework for each of my classes. I created ‘What was that homework?’ as a result of a survey of students across several schools where many students said that they would like homework details online. No student can ever say to me that they didn’t know what their homework was! (The very first post on this WordPress blog – which includes some useful WordPress links).

Twitter – great for professional development – I have contacts in education all over the globe and have been led to many useful resources by my virtual colleagues! For Maths resources – I regularly check Craig Barton’s tweets @TESMaths, where he highlights excellent TES Resources. See for example these two recent tweets on an excellent presentation on negative numbers and a self checking spreadsheet on standard form; this would be excellent for students to use themselves at home.

Google Docs– I have used Google docs to collaborate on documents such as presentations with other teachers. Using Google Forms provides an excellent way to get feedback from a group of people, their responses are all returned to a single spreadsheet. A comprehensive manual can be downloaded here.
For an examples of forms see this one used to collect student self-assessments of their PLTS skills development in Mathematics and thisto collect student feedback on their Mathematics experience at the end of their first year with us.

Moodle – I have a Moodle course for each year group in school; each course has links to any websites that we use in class so students can investigate further themselves if they wish. VLEs are sometimes criticised for being no more than ‘filing cabinets’; I would argue what useful filing cabinets they are – containing resources chosen by teachers for their students all in one organised place. For example prior to a recent GCSE Mathematics module the relevant Moodle course received hundreds of hits as everything students needed was available, not only syllabus information and papers but worked examples that we had uploaded. It is also of course possible to use forums and quizzes on a VLE. (Digital Tools blog page on Moodle).

Slideshare – it is very easy to upload presentations to this (free) presentation sharing site. Any PowerPoints for students could be uploaded for example. There are several examples on this site, such as the WolframAlpha slideshows.

Diigo – I have saved many hundreds of bookmarks using this social bookmarking / annotation tool; I can even find them again! There are numerous examples of Diigo lists on this site – see this list on Statistics and Probability for example; note that the green link takes you direct to the site. Always liking the idea of a backup plan – all my Diigo bookmarks are sent automatically to Evernote via ifttt (I also have Diigo set up to send the bookmarks to Delicious!)

Screenr – when trying to type Mathematical text is too slow, a quick scribble on some kind of screencasting tool can be the answer (graphics tablet essential). (Blog post on Online Whiteboards – consistently one of the most popular posts here).

A choice of 10 is not actually enough for those tools I use all the time! I see that GeoGebra, Gmail, Excel, and Google calendar are all quite rightly on the 2011 list and WolframAlpha (mentioned above with Slideshare) nearly made it!

(Image courtesy of chrisroll /: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

For an updated post – see Bell Work, published in 2020.

At the beginning of a lesson I like to get everybody busy straight away, making a calm start to the lesson and very much like the idea of so called ‘bell’ work. Give students a task that is simple to understand and requires no more than a simple instruction on the board (no technology required – unless you are in the room ahead of your students which offers more possibilities). This is a particularly useful idea if students arrive at different times. Students are expected to get to work as soon as they enter the room.

Some ideas:

Some short questions on a topic studied recently.

Ask students to write down all they can remember on any topic. They could perhaps draw a mind map or a picture to represent their ideas.

Ask for some specific facts, eg write down the names of all the quadrilaterals they can with a quick sketch for each.

Students make up some short questions to review a topic – they could then put their questions to the class.

Countdown type problems or ‘Make 24‘. Print out some Make a number puzzles with solutions from Brain Food. Note the other problems available on Brain Food, a Logi-Number puzzle could be written up quickly for example. Many such problems are available, see for example As Easy As 1234from MathsChallenge.net. Forfurther information on Make 24 see the Number page of my Starters and Plenaries blog.

UK Maths Challenge questions can make excellent starters and you don’t even have to provide the multiple choice answers!

A book I like very much is ‘Thinkers’ from ATM, many questions here would be very simple to put to students at the beginning of a lesson.

At the end of a lesson – tell them what you expect them to do the minute they walk into the next lesson, so they know what there bell work is before thy even get to the lesson!

Why not start a collection of such ideas? Many of these ideas could also be used for those odd moments in a lesson when you find you have some extra time.

Many schools have already started and the new school year is underway.

I always find the beginning of the new school year is a great time to think about how I want my classes to be; a post I like a great deal is ‘What Kind Of Restaurant Is Your Classroom?‘ by David Anderson and Lee Pace. I’d like to think my classroom is more gourmet than fast food!

Certainly a variety of activities is required and plenty are available online, I have added a page ‘Problems and Activities‘ under ‘I’m Looking For…‘ which includes a variety of sites with excellent and varied resources. If you want to vary the way you start and end lessons try Mathematics Starters, see also a huge collection of ideas in Mike Gershwin’s Starter Generator. TES have a collection for new teachers which I think will be valuable to any teacher, note the Assessment for Learning Toolkit;good feedback is essential for our students’ learning.As well as a variety of activities questions should be planned carefully to include questions demanding higher order thinking skills – it’s all to easy to ask the simple recall type questions.

So full of good resolutions back to school we go!

Wishing all educators and students everywhere a successful and happy new school year.