Retrieval Practice – it’s not all about quizzes

For my latest slides on Retrieval Practice from the ATM & MA London Branch Summer Conference, please see these files:
PowerPoint or pdf

Retrieval Practice is not all about quizzes – low stakes quizzes play an important part but there are many other ways to help your students get the learning out! We spend much time thinking about how to get the learning in – think in your lesson planning how to get the learning out of your students! How can you help them actively recall and apply their learning?

The slides include all the various resources I mentioned including SENECA Learning, a free revision and homework platform, Seneca has applied research in cognitive neuroscience and psychology to provide an engaging environment for students. To answer the question What is Seneca? we can turn to this blog post from Stephen Wilks.

Exam Board specific GCSE content is available, my Year 10 students have tried this and reacted very favourably; this is certainly something I will be using with my students in the coming academic year; the step by step explanations and examples look very helpful indeed. My students certainly liked the AQA Maths sections we looked at – they also strayed into the many other subjects available, liking the content they saw.

Happily, Seneca has just announced that KS3 and A Level courses will also be free – such excellent news.

Join the conversation on the book Make It Stick on Facebook.

If you are looking for particular resources or have questions/suggestions/observations, please contact me.

Highly recommended is the Retrieval Practice website from Dr Pooja K. Agarwal.

Seneca Learning

SENECA Learning

Links to the resources and further reading:

From The Learning Scientists see these valuable resources to support the techniques described here. Note the excellent downloadable materials on study strategies. Each strategy is backed up by research.


Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction‘ provides a very valuable list of research strategies teachers should know about and I believe it is well worth asking ourselves if we are incorporating these strategies regularly into our lessons. This UNESCO pamphlet on the Principles offers further reading and for a very clear summary of these principles of instruction, see from TeachingHOW2s this excellent summary; stick this poster on your walls! (Alternative version – yellow background).
Principles of Instruction
Links and Further Reading

A really useful source of questions which can be used for Aural tests are the mental tests from CIMT; these are included with their resources for Years 7, 8 and 9 and also for GCSE. For Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) scroll down this page for the Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 course material, the resources include mental tests as part of the teacher support material. On the GCSE page scroll down to the teacher support material and note the mental tests available for most units, see this on Formulae for example.

This Custom Starter from Transum allows teachers to select the number of questions and the topics to include; scroll down the page and choose the topics you want from the Concept Selection.
Transum Revision

It is possible to save a particular selection of topics as the URL for your selection will be generated. It is also possible to drag the panels so your questions are displayed in the desired order. The beginning of a lesson can be an ideal time to review previous learning, starters like this can be ideal.

The excellent MathsBot site also provides Starters which can be customised.

Included with Spot the mistake we have excellent resources from Andy Lutwyche, look at his excellent Erica’s Errors series and if we check on TES, these free resources also include plenty of errors from Clumsy Clive! I have found these work really well in class.

A very useful resource is this booklet of sample questions which has been created as part of a project funded by the NCETM on Questioning the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I have tried many of these in the classroom, they really make students think and encourage a deep understanding. Not just for Maths but applicable to any subject I’d recommend very highly the Brighton and Hove Assessment for Learning  project – Questions worth asking. This includes many practical suggestions for the classroom and concludes with a self analysis. The project includes the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy as an aid to thinking about the level of challenge / thinking required for a question.

Further Reading

Retrieval Practice Guides

Guides from

Mathematics – Irish Leaving Certificate

I recently mentioned that the brilliant Maths Emporium team have been busy with the filing cabinets! You will find many International GCSE Mathematics papers. The Mathematics Emporium is a free website intended for the use of teachers of mathematics in secondary schools, wherever they are located and regardless of what awarding body they use.

Maths Emporium International papers

Maths Emporium

On the subject of papers from beyond UK shores, from Ireland, we have the Irish Leaving Certificate Qualification.

Students normally sit the Junior Certificate exam at the age of 14 or 15, after 3 years of post-primary education and from the Graduate Recruitment Bureau A Level Equivalents Guide we see that An Irish Leaving Certificate is roughly equal to two-thirds of an A Level and is the main basis upon which places in universities, institutes of technology and colleges of education are allocated.

These qualifications with their very clear mark schemes provide us with another source of very useful examples. Once you have clicked the checkbox to verify that you have read, understood and accepted the terms and conditions, you can search for papers and mark schemes by subject. As well as marking notes, an excellent feature of these mark schemes is the model solutions provided.

For example, if we look at the Junior Certificate 2017 higher paper, question 6 is on Venn Diagrams; the mark scheme provides a model solution.

Looking at the 2017 Leaving Certificate paper, I see, for example, differentiation from first principles and De Moivre’s Theorem. Again, model solutions are provided as part of the mark scheme.

I mentioned the Project Maths site in a previous post, this is an Irish site supporting Mathematics teachers. These teacher resources are for Leaving Certificate students. A site well worth exploring, looking at Algebra we see for example under expressions:

Project Maths Student Resources Index
The student resources include many activities with accompanying GeoGebra files.
Project Maths Student Resources
Modulus Inequalities Project Maths

Integration and area

Junior Certificate resources are also available.

These whiteboard templates caught my eye, you can download the Whiteboard PowerPoint Templates Whiteboard Templates 17.9. Simply download the PowerPoint file, project it onto your whiteboard, use the interactive menu to choose the background you need and start writing!

Project Maths - Whiteboard Templates

Plans and Elevations

Needing some resources for Plans and Elevations this week – some great resources are…

Diagnostic Questions
A go-to site where I know I can find a quiz on any topic. Looking at the AQA Quiz Collection, we find – 2D Representations of 3D Shapes.
Diagnostic Questions AQA

A lovely (free) interactive 3d modelling tool to demonstrate plans and elevations is available in the Geometry collection on on the excellent MathsPad. MathsPad is a subscription site (a very reasonable subscription providing value for money in my personal opinion), you can search for Free resources and you will discover an excellent collection.

TES Resources
Plans & Elevations TES

This search returns many excellent (free) resources on TES on Plans and Elevations, note that these are TES Picks. The slide shown here is from a very clear PowerPoint, Plans and Elevations,  author, Fintan Douglas.

Dr Frost
Dr Frost Plans & Elevations
Another go-to site, from Dr Frost we have his Plans and Elevations resources. Dr Frost’s consistently high-quality resources include full solutions; you will also find plenty of challenges for students aiming at the highest grades.

SSDD Problems
SSDD Problem Triangular Prisms 2
SSDD Problems tagged Plans and Elevations are currently Triangular Prisms 2 and Triangular Prisms 3.

Don Steward
Don Steward
Many excellent challenges from Don Steward on Plans and Elevations.


GCSE Mathematics Revision (14-16)

With two of three UK GCSE Mathematics papers still to go at the time of writing, I can see the various revision pages are popular. The GCSE (14-16) Revision page has been updated since last year; notable additions include:

From David Morse, Maths4Everyone has a wonderful collection of high-quality resources, all freely available on TES Resources. Note all David’s fully worked exam questions by topic.
Inequalities & Regions David Morse
Also on Maths4Everyone, you will find a lovely collection of GCSE Revision Worksheets including a great set of SSDD revision questions. (See Craig Barton’s SSDD Problems site.)
SSDD Questions David Morse

From the Eduqas resource collection, we have Mathematics Take-Aways for Higher and Foundation. These attractively presented resources offer very useful revision indeed. Full solutions are provided.

Mathematics Take-Away - Eduqas
Mathematics Take-Away – Eduqas


On Maths Genie, you will find numerous resources by topic. Under Grade 7, for example, we have Inverse and Composite Functions. You will find some revision examples and also exam questions with solutions.

Maths Genie Functions

For centres offering International GCSE qualifications, you will find the brilliant Maths Emporium team have been busy with the filing cabinets.

Maths Emporium International papers

Maths Emporium

Note that all the exam boards add examination papers to their secure sites; these should, of course, be kept securely, they are intended only for teachers. They should not be shared.