STEM Learning

STEM LearningSTEM Learning hosts hundreds of Mathematics resources, (resister free here). Try exploring the extensive collection of Mathematics resources.

I’ll mention just a few here; these are resources I found of particular interest for my own teaching.

By Susan Wall, this collection of resources on Active A-Level Mathematics is excellent, I have used several of Susan’s activities very successfully in the classroom; I do like Thinking Questionsopen–ended questions which should certainly make your students do just that – really think. (Added to Rich Questions).

From MEI the MEI GCSE Mathematics Extension Materials are aimed at students who are working towards GCSE Mathematics and would benefit from exposure to mathematics beyond the GCSE specifications. There are many excellent ideas here which encourage students to explore concepts. In fact some of these activities would be a useful introduction for older students.

GAIM Investigation

GAIM Investigation 1

The Graded Assessment in Mathematics (GAIM) resources includes a wonderful collection of 80 activities for investigations and problem solving with  accompanying teachers notes.

The collection from the Royal Academy of Engineering includes high quality Mathematics for Engineering Exemplars, for example a look at Formula One Race Strategy. It strikes me that these materials would be useful for many students as they develop literacy as well as mathematics. Notes and solutions are provided.

cre8ate digital design

cre8ate digital design – working with photos

The cre8ate maths project features resources applying maths to key areas of the economy focussing on functional mathematics skills. Digital Design for example includes a ‘Working with Photos’ activity to help students understand enlargement.

The complete, superb collection of Improving Learning in Mathematics materials is hosted here. (See this page for associated resources for this collection).

The Durham Maths Mysteries are activities based on cards with statements about the area of mathematics being covered. Students then have to use reasoning to decide how to tackle the the task.

Now here’s a collection I am delighted to find, we used to use the New National Curriculum Mathematics from Nelson Thornes, how useful to have the set available electronically, there are some great problems amongst these pages! Now I can project them on the IWB. The set includes the A/A* book aimed at able students. I was always particularly fond of the problem solving exercise in Book 6! (See Number, Problem Solving, Exercise 1:1); Book 6 also has some rather good exercises on Equations in the Algebra section).

So much to explore, so many lovely collections! A couple more that caught my eye – Nuffield’s Making Sense of Data with its emphasis on analysis and interpretation and Decision Mathematics from the OR Society.

This post took a seriously long time to write as I came upon so many resources I know will be useful in my teaching! I have added a copy of the post to the resources section so it can easily be found again in future.

Lesson Planning

I seem to keep coming across Ross Morrison McGill’s 5 minute lesson plan recently and have decided I really like the idea. I’ll be giving it a try over the next week or so and will report back.

I discovered a version adapted for Maths by Mark Greenaway on his Suffolk Maths site (under Teaching pedagogy – Lesson planning & Ofsted). Actually I rather like this adaptation for any subject, I think I’ll combine the ideas from various versions I have found and refine a document of my own as I try it out, I certainly don’t want to lose vocabulary for example.

In the meantime I thought I would start thinking generally and adding some resource links under the headings on the 5 minute plan. This is very much a work in progress. I have listed the headings I intend to start working with and some initial thoughts / links below. (You’ll find explanations by Ross Morrison McGill on the page I have linked to above)

This should also be for the learner not just the observer. I have started adding syllabus references to resources for my GCSE class this year for example, having supplied them with the specification and AQA’s excellent exemplification document and have noticed several students noting these down. We have calendars for the year with schemes of learning on our VLE.


I intend to use this section to plan the beginning of my lesson, this may include a settler on any topic before the first question or activity on the main topic of the day in which case I will include both.
Bell Work   Starters Ideas

What do I really want them to take away from this lesson? Not just what though, but how will we make it stick and how will I know it’s stuck?! I have written more than once on the need for recall. Highlighting is a Waste of Time!

Links to other topics
Students sometimes make suggestions that a topic reminds them of something they have already studied. It strikes me that it would be useful to ask students what topic links they can make as well as noting them myself on the lesson plan.

I regularly use resources to show definitions and have a link for my students here. The various dictionaries, the glossary for teachers and the document with exam terminology are all excellent resources and it is worth noting all the key terms relevant to the work currently being studied.

Student feedback / input/ discussion


Key Questions
Rich Questions   Random Name Pickers

Activities – include Assessment for Learning
I’m looking for …Problems and Activities    Assessment for Learning Resources

Homework Ideas 

See later post also: Lesson Planning Again

Thank you Ross (@TeacherToolkit) for the inspiration!

Things I Learned This Week: Sep 14th

This week in class…

ClassDojoYear 7 – ClassDojo
Year 7 and I have decided to try ClassDojo this year. ClassDojo is a classroom tool that helps teachers record student behavior quickly and easily. Feedback points for specific behaviors can be awarded. (This is completely free). The class were very keen and this is our class decision not mine. The beauty of ClassDojo is the ease with which you can customise it. We discussed all the various categories we could have for points and have some great suggestions, points for marking and correcting work clearly for example and for asking great questions. We can also link this with our engagement with learning criteria used in school. We discussed the negative behaviours and decided that we should have anything which stops them learning either in or out of class, ‘off task’, or ‘no homework’ for example. We have far more positive behaviours than negative. Students can log in and see their own records and I do like the fact that they have a chance to reflect and add a comment themselves. Part of their homework this week is to think about the points system we will use, in fact whilst writing this post two students left comments on our homework blog with suggestions for points which I have duly added! I then used my phone to award the two of them a participation point! A computer can of course be used to award points but it is also possible to use a tablet or phone, apps are available for android and iPhone.
I regard this as a good way to document their learning behaviours, it is absolutely not a traditional ‘reward’ system which I think can be a minefield! I want something accessible to all and is clear to us all that it is about each student being the best they can be. Writing that statement has made me realise we need points for being gritty (and the value of writing things down)!
There are many leaflets and handouts with clear instructions and ClassDojo’s YouTube channel has a collection of tutorials showing you how to use ClassDojo.
Sixth Form – WolframAlpha and Desmos
Select the image for the Desmos graph.

Select the image for the Desmos graph.

As I always do I have been showing all my classes how helpful WolframAlpha is for checking working, so I was very pleased that when two of my Sixth Form students (UK age 16-18) came independently to see me about some homework they had both been using WolframAlpha to check answers. One student also asked about modulus inequalities and I showed her how simple it is to use the Desmos graphing calculator to illustrate the problem.

New Discoveries

Maths News
The National curriculum in England, Mathematics programmes of study for key stages 1, 2 and 3 were published on September 11th. (Link added to the News page).

I mentioned Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools for Learning last week, this is the last chance to vote for the 2013 list as Jane will publish the latest list on September 30th. Jane Hart’s definition of a learning tool:  “A learning tool is a tool for your own personal or professional learning or one you use for teaching, training or e-learning.” Voting closes at midnight GMT on Friday 27 September 2013.
….and finally 
For your amusement (thank you to my daughter Sophie for the link), can you figure out these movie titles? from Spiked Math.


Things I Learned This Week: Sep 8

This week in class…
  • In my first lesson with each class I have been talking to my students about being gritty and green!  The green refers to our engagement with learning assessments where we traffic light students green / amber / red for their engagement with their learning. They certainly all listened and understood the message and clearly want to do well.
  • I have used the name cards I described here; I printed the address of my homework blog on one side for them to see and note and they wrote their name on the other. I find these really helpful, seeing the name beside the student means you can use their name when you talk to them and I already know many names. I collect them in at the end of the class, providing another opportunity to use their name thanking them for returning the card. (The ‘cards’ are actually folded A4 paper.)
  • Diagram - T SherringtonI read Tom Sherrington’s post “Empowing students to own their learning solves maths problems“; a great idea to start with a diagram with no labels at all as a way into a problem. I tried this with Year 10 (very able students) in their first lesson, presenting them with only Tom’s diagram and was very pleased indeed with the outcome. I didn’t even give them the question – just the diagram (a small copy each) and we started by deciding what the question might be. We quickly got onto areas as a possibility so then answered Tom’s original question ‘what fraction of the shape is shaded?’. The class happily discussed how to solve the problem and a student asked ‘can we write on the diagram?’ which of course was perfect – absolutely they could write on it. We solved the problem, revising some basics and had the discussion about what to do when you don’t know what to do! I will certainly use diagrams with no labels again.
New Discoveries
  • Numbers AndroidNrich now have modules for STEP preparation which look excellent. Note also their related resources such as preparing for university.
  • The wonderful Desmos graphing calculator keeps getting better and better and now has animations.
  • I tried an Android app I rather like, Numbers which is similar to Countdown. Use the given numbers to achieve the target. There are over 200 levels. I’m not sure the levels have a lot to do with increasing difficulty – look at level 61 here for example – this is much easier than some of the earlier problems. When I first started playing I didn’t realise you could click on intermediate results as you see in the illustration here and actually managed several levels without doing do! Dave Gale has written a post on the app here. I think I’ll try some of the problems this week with my Year 7 class when we discuss order of operations because we could write out the solution on several lines as in the app but then discuss how we could write the solution with brackets. I really want this on my interactive whiteboard (as well as my tablet and my phone!)
  •  Maths News
  • I have written before on Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools for Learning, the 2013 list is now published.
Blog Updates 
….and finally 
Thank you Doug Belshaw, I enjoy your Thought Schrapnel every week.