Indices and Standard form

Good to practice using a calculator for standard from:


This one is non-calc:


As is this:



Deeper Questions for Mean, Mode, Median

Some quick questions, Powerpoint here.  You could also ask pupils to draw pictures (e.g. scaled bar models) to represent their examples.

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And then these to from @. Need a really good explanation!


Other questions:

  • What’s the average number of wheels on a vehicle on a motorway?
  • What’s the average number of children a woman (in UK, in India, etc.) has in her life?
  • What’s the average number of arms a human being has?

Or, if you’re feeling brave:


Mastering Subtraction with Dienes Blocks, Diffy and 1089

We are spending the first term with Year 7 on fundamental number skills to ensure solid foundations. This week, we are looking at subtraction.  There won’t be any specific methods or techniques that they haven’t already seen at primary school, but I know the degree to which they have mastered these techniques will vary markedly within the class.

Rather than feeling daunted at the prospect of teaching them something they already know, I’m seeing this an opportunity to show them some (hopefully) cool maths that requires them to use and practise their skills.

My new school has a wealth of manipulatives which I have had little opportunity to use before.  I’m looking forward to using dienes blocks to show why the column subtraction method works and why we cross out digits before embarking on the subtraction.

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It’s not really “borrowing” it’s “re-distributing” one of the tens into the ones column.

Next up, Diffy, which I learned about from Don Steward’s blog post here.  The post contains some great ideas on how to do it. I love a good spreadsheet so created this which does all the calculations for you!  The real reason though is so I can give my students a chart to help them structure their Diffy calculations.

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I really want to focus on clarity of instruction with this class. They are a typical Year 7 class who need instructions broken right down and economy of language from me. My measure of success will be the number of questions I get asked before they start!

There is more about Diffy in this great blog post from Colleen Young

I also really like these rquestions from Maths Mastery:

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I shall insist on 100% silence, pens down and do a Think, Pair, Share on this. The “Think” will be 30 seconds in complete silence with a timer with pupils just looking at the calculations.  I’m hoping for an excited rush of discussion once the 30 seconds is up and they are itching to tell their neighbour what they’ve spotted.  Then they will check their hypothesis by actually completing the calculations in their books.

And finally the old classic 1089. Powerpoint slide here.


What happens when you put a group of Year 10s in a hall with a group of Year 6s

I started at a new school this year.  I could write pages about this experience, but that’s not what this blog is for, I want to share things that are genuinely useful to other Maths teachers!

My new school is much nearer to my home, and one of its feeder primary schools is where my own children go.  I was Treasurer of the PTFA there some years ago so have lots of connections with the primary school.  I got talking to one of the awesome teachers there and we discussed bringing a group of my Year 10s to help with tutoring some their Year 6 pupils.

Today was our first 30 minute session.  I knew I wouldn’t have much preparation time with my Year 10s, so I took the approach of being fairly prescriptive putting together a sheet of tasks for them.

It went well; very quickly, in fact.  I gathered my group together at the end and told them how impressed I was with their coaching.  I had a fairly mixed group of 13 students, some capable mathematicians amongst them but also some students that don’t show the best focus in their own maths lessons whom I was quite concerned about.  But as soon as the Year 6s entered the hall, they suddenly took their job very seriously and made great efforts to engage the pupils.

Many of the Year 10s found that the Year 6s already had a good understanding of place value and they reported that they found the task quite easy.  As teachers, we know how to use questioning to really probe depth of understanding, but maybe this is too much to expect of a 14 year old.  What intrigued me was the variety of ways my students responded to this challenge with some of them going completely off-piste and explaining pi!  But I want to encourage this.  It’s a luxury to have no specific learning objectives to fulfil or curriculum to follow.  We are doing it 3.00-3.30 on a Friday afternoon, which I’m pretty sure means the Year 6 pupils are not missing critical learning time!

Looking forward, I want my Year 10s to take a gradually greater responsibly for planning activities.  We have agreed, that we are going to have some element of “game” in every session and we started looking at some of the huge range of Nrich activities.  I’ve put together a Google doc for next week to allow the Year 10s to collaborate and contribute ideas.  I not expecting them all to contribute, but I think a few will.

I’m also really enjoying discovering some resources and games that I’m sure will be useful in my own teaching practice.  I’m relishing not having to follow a scheme of work.  My only objective is to keep everyone engaged and learning and to “make maths fun”. If we achieve this, it’s going to make me think long and hard about how we teach maths at secondary!

If anyone has the opportunity to do this sort of partnership, or in fact is already doing it, then please get in touch by leaving a comment below.  It would be fascinating to share ideas. Also, if you have any good ideas of resources, then let me know.  I have many weeks ahead to fill!

Equations of simple Straight Line Graphs (prior to y=mx+c) using Mini-whiteboards

These slides are in groups of 4 designed to be used as a mini-whiteboard exercise for groups that need reinforcement on equations of the more basic straight-line graphs that can be determined by looking at patterns in the co-ordinates of points on the line (i.e. all points have a y-coordinate of -4 means the line is y=-4)Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 20.25.38

The idea is that you show the line itself first and ask students to show on their mini-whiteboards the equation of the line if they know it. If they don’t, then showing them the next slide with a bunch of co-ordinates provides the scaffolding. The next slide then reveals the equation and the final slide is to make the point that the coordinates themselves are arbitrary.

Learning times tables – Number Happy Families

Anyone looking for a simple maths game for end of term Year 7 lessons? Here’s one.

mho maths

Embedded image permalinkI’ve always felt that secure knowledge of times tables at Year 7 is so important simply because it gives kids the confidence to engage in so many maths topics covered in that year.  As such any opportunity to practice is good even when it is in a simple game like this.

A Simple Factors and Multiples Team Game for 3-4 players

I came up with this idea whilst playing the traditional Happy Families card game with my family when on holiday. Kids seem to love this game – could I create a maths game as engaging?

I’ve tried this several times with Year 7 classes, playing in teams of 3 or 4 and they love it.

It takes very little preparation or explanation – in fact the students make the resources themselves!

The Cards

You need a set of 36 blank cards for each team. Anything will do.  I spent…

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Ideas for better maths teaching