Great problem solving tasks from FMSP

My Year 10 class did these 3 this week:

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They have their GCSE RS and Science exams next week, so I needed to find something a bit “fun” but still wanted it to be “mathsy”.  They are a strong group with enough keen beans amongst them for me to feel confident that something like this would work.  I was impressed with their teamwork and tenacity.  At first it seems hard because you are faced with a blank sheet (their words). It took the quickest group 20 mins, 1 out of the five didn’t finish after 30 minutes.

Something I always bear in mind when doing any sort of team activity (see my earlier blog post) is that everyone should have a clear role to play and something to contribute. In this task everyone has their own set of clues, that they are not allowed to show to the others. I encouraged them to make sure they were the experts in their own clues so that when proposals were made they could say if this proposal broke any of their rules.

There is no need to cut up these sheets into “cards” as the resource suggests.  Quicker and better if you just cut them into strips:

That way you can give a strip to each student. They are less likely to drop a card on the floor which kind of ruins it! If you cut some horizontally and some vertically as shown you can cater for groups of 4 or 5 students.

We finished with 10 minutes to spare and had a pretty good discussion about the task.  Questions I asked them:

How did they start the task? (Talking or just reading)

Did it help to group the clues in any way?

Were they tempted to share the clues? (I told them I’d give them 30s time penalty if they were caught sharing.) Or were they happy having their own? (most were)

How did you work well as a team? What did you think went well?

Was it hard? What made it hard?



Introduction to Factorising Quadratics

Useful as a starter / drills for a lesson teaching how to factorise quadratics.  Should provide some number confidence before then tackling actual quadratics, although beware it doesn’t just become another method to learn without the understanding.


A simple template for capturing Lesson Observations

When observing lessons, whether as part of a Lesson Study, collaborative planning, a learning walk or something more formal, it is, of course, essential to take notes on what you are seeing in the classroom. Scribbling notes in a notebook is simple, but if you need to “type it up” to formalise it, or even just to share it with other colleagues, that becomes another task on the to-do list and yet another burden on your time.  Better to take a laptop into the lesson with you so you at least have the undistllled notes in a digital format.

Here is a really simple Google Sheets template that adds a timestamp as you type the comments. I’m no expert in writing scripts but this guy is, so thanks Azad!

screen demo

It works like this:

  1. When you are ready to start select the Draft tab at the bottom.
  2. During the lesson, write in the Comments column. Each time you press enter it automatically fills in the Time column.
  3.  When you have finished, copy the cells you need from the Draft sheet to the Final sheet and fill in whatever other detail you need at the top.

I find that I tend to write a lot when doing lesson observations even though some of it isn’t relevant or worth sharing with the teacher.  I can easily delete that extraneous waffle by deleting rows from the Final sheet.

I have kept the template really simple, because I don’t like templates much.  However, it would be easy enough to adapt this to two columns, e.g. www, ebi if you wish.  Also, you can play around with the Final sheet to make it look like your school’s lesson observation template with all the extra fields you need in the space at the top.

Hope this works for you, please get in touch with any comments or to let me know how you are using it.