Thinking about practising skills for GCSE, why not create some custom starters?
From Jake Gordon, try his Skills grid creator– customise exactly as you want from 90 skills, and answers are included.
On Jonathan Hall’s Test Maker on MathsBot we could create a test to test many of these skills. Choose the skills you want from the menu, the number of questions, and the initial and final difficulty of the questions on a scale of 1 to 10, also note the Paired Solutions option to show one example with an answer then one to try. An Answer Key is provided for any test you create.
We could also use the many brilliant GCSE resources from MathsBot.
Alternatively, using Transum’s Refreshing Revision, we could create a custom resource to check some of these skills. The resource 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, it is also possible to drag the panels so your questions are displayed in the desired order. A very nice feature is the fact that you can save a particular selection of topics as the URL for your selection will be generated. Every time you refresh the page you get different revision questions. Note also the Advanced Level version. This resource like all the Transum resources is free to use, an extensive collection of resources such as the various KS3 and KS4 self-checking exercises mentioned below provide answers for any user. Answers for some resources such as examination questions and this Refreshing Revision resource are provided for subscribers; extremely good value for money in my opinion.
Transum has an extensive library of self-checking exercises, so we could easily provide examples on inequalities for example. On Transum, there are several ways to search for resources, for example, try:
See on Maths White Board: Revision Board – generate a starter based on the Advance Information
On Interactive Maths Generators from Dan Rodriguez-Clark (@InteractMaths), design your own sets of questions on more than 50 maths topics for your students to practice a variety of skills. There are many customisation options, generally as well as for individual topics. Full instructions are on Dan’s site.
On DrFrostMaths try the Question Explorer. A brilliant feature (well one of the many brilliant features) of Dr Frost Maths is the extensive collection of key skills for UK KS2 to KS5 (ages 8-18), practice as many examples as you want, and perhaps watch a video on this key skill.
On TES, from salimnore, this Excel spreadsheet generates an endless supply of 1 mark questions with the option to display the answers, making an ideal starter. Two versions are available, you can choose 5 or 10 questions to display.
This searchable collection, Mudd Math Fun Facts from Harvey Mudd College Math Department has resources that can make great starter activities, perhaps try Squares Ending in 5 and Multiplication by 11both made excellent starters. I have looked at proofs for these with students as well as enjoying the mental Maths tricks!
It is possible to search by topic, difficulty level and keywords.
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, question/s and/or diagram 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.
In current times, the students may well be in the room before their teacher, so could be given instructions at the end of a lesson on what they are expected to be working on at the beginning of the next lesson.
A short question or questions on a topic studied recently.
Ask students to write down all they can remember on any topic. They could perhaps draw diagrams or just jot down examples or vocabulary – anything at all – a ‘Brain Dump’, see ‘Brain Dumps: A small strategy with a big impact’ on Retrieval Practice.
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.
Provide students with a diagram, they write a question, (See ‘Here’s the diagram ….’). Particularly useful for providing a diagram or a question to write up quickly is Peter Mattock’ wonderful Goal Free Problems, a site he set up, in his own words “to allow teachers to access and share goal free problems created by myself and others. Goal free problems have been proven to support pupils in improving their knowledge and understanding by removing the cognitive load of the goal and therefore not prompting means-end analysis of a problem.” Here you will find hundreds of questions categorised by topic; there are also mixed questions available.
Prime numbers can be used for an exploring numbers type starter. Find numbers with exactly two factors. Three factors? (A square of a prime number). Four? Five? Or generalise (perhaps rather too long for a starter!) This investigation, How Many Factors on nzmaths requires students to find ways to group numbers, which numbers have only two factors and which have only three factors? For further ideas see these possibilities from Nrich. Two Primes Make One Square or Penta Primes for example could make suitable starters.
Also from Colin Foster on Nrich we have Mathematical Etudes where he discusses lovely rich tasks and tedious exercises! Note his Mathematical Etudes Project; scroll down the page for examples of Mathematical Etudes on Different Topics, there are many activities here for which instructions can be given to students easily.
Problems from Open Middle can be very simply explained, but can really get your students thinking.
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!
Mental Tests Many schools are providing students with booklets for use in lessons. Alternatively or in addition to, why not give a mental test where the teacher simply reads a short question which the students can write down and then answer can make an excellent start to a lesson, or in fact can be used at any point in a lesson. These should be very much low stakes activities. There are many sources of questions you can use, for example, see
Class Quizzes from Corbettmathsfor a collection of questions designed to help students remember key facts. Looking at these will probably give you ideas for writing your own quizzes too.
A really useful source of questions which can be used this way 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.
In a post on Cognitive Science in the Classroom, I mentioned Knowledge Organisers, or to be more precise I mentioned Kris Boulton’s “When shouldn’t I use knowledge organisers?”. Kris has written on why they are less applicable to maths. Certainly, I had not used knowledge organisers for Mathematics myself with one exception, I have used William Emeny’s Angle Facts; as Kris Boulton says in his article, “Maths is super-dense with concepts, and processes, but really only very few facts.” Noting topics where students do need to know more facts, he includes angle facts.
When I have used Will’s angle facts, I have adapted it so some content is missing, particularly the section on basic angle facts, students can be given just the diagrams for example and asked to recall the basic angle facts. I have also asked students to recall as many basic angle facts before they see the list as in the organiser, so using it following retrieval practice or as a retrieval exercise.
To quote the Durrington blog, “Maths are using their range of knowledge organisers to support homework tasks. Firstly, the students can access their maths knowledge organisers are any time using our online system Connect. This means that students have scaffolding in place for when they are working outside of the classroom. Furthermore, every fortnight the maths team set a homework that is based on retrieval quizzing. The students are required to use the knowledge organisers to find the answers to upcoming quizzes and then actually sit the quiz in class on the due date for the homework. Students who score less than 12 out of 15 are then supported in making flashcards on the questions, again gaining the information from the knowledge organiser, and use these to retest until they are successful. This strategy demonstrates how knowledge organisers can be used to support learning through the testing effect.
Nicola Whiston has a superb collection of Knowledge Organisers which follow the White Rose Schemes of Learning, all are available on TES Resources, on TES editable versions are available as well as the free pdf resources. These are really attractive and I believe appeal to students. I think these are excellent to use in class alongside teaching a topic. They could also be used for retrieval practice.
You can hear Nicola talking about Knowledge Organisers with Tom Manners, In his interview, he was joined by Nathan Burns aka @MrMetacognition who has researched these in great detail, as well as Nicola Whiston (@Whisto_Maths) to discuss what maths knowledge organisers should contain and how we should use them effectively.
From Becky Reed a set of Knowledge Organisers for Edexcel GCSE (UK age 14-16). We have here another set of very clear and also attractive set of resources. Like the other resources here I think these are useful in class and for students to use at home also. There are several examples given which is really helpful.
Sarah Hall has a GCSE (‘WJEC flavoured’ )collection. Sarah’s Knowledge Organiser resources can all be found (all free) on TES Resources. These have many clear illustrations and like others in the Knowledge Organiser collection, are very attractively presented.
For a collection of Cornell notes linked to topics found in the Maths curriculum see Mr Hawes Maths.
For A complete set of A Level Statistics and Mechanics Knowledge Organisers – see these resources from Lucyjc. These resources are available free on TES Resources: Statistics and Mechanics. All include Key Words and Definitions and What Do I Need to Know sections.
If I want definitions, characteristics and examples (clarified with the use of non examples), then I could return to the Frayer model. (See Frayer Models.)
Searching for Mathematics Knowledge Organisers, I have come across some resources I wish to explore further, such as the Henry Box School on Knowledge Organisers where the school are sharing Knowledge Organisers for each subject, recognising the support parents can offer. From the Subjects menu, choose a subject and you will find this includes Knowledge organisers for Year 7 through to Year 11, see Maths for example.