UK Maths Education Bloggers (Version 2.1) for #mathscpdchat

The Echo Chamber

I realise it’s not long since the last version of this list, but #mathscpdchat tonight is about bloggers so I thought I’d do an update.

The following blogs are written by UK education bloggers who are listed as having maths (or something including maths) as their subject. If any have been missed, please update the spreadsheet here. Obviously not all the blogs are actually about maths. Apologies that it won’t include any blogs I’ve discovered only since the main list of bloggers was last updated.

………Experimental Blog
…to the real.
@SPorterEdu
A Maths Teacher Writes
Adventure Time with D & Co.
Blog
Bodil’s blog
cavmaths
Christian Bokhove
David’s Denkarium
Emaths – Blog
f(maths)
FE Culture
Filling the pail
Flying Colours Maths
Frank Chalk
garethmetcalfe
GCSE Maths Stuff
Great Maths Teaching Ideas
iTeachMaths
joining up the maths
justmaths.co.uk/
Magical MathsMagical Maths
ManYana Ltd
MathedUp!
Mathematics, Learning and Technology
mathematicsandcoding
Maths Directory…

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Why teaching A-level is the best preparation for teaching A-level

The Chalkface blog

I thought I understood A-level Maths until I started teaching it.  As @magicalmaths tweeted the other day, we learn some of what we see or read and rather more of what we discuss or experience for ourselves, but none of it compares to how well we learn by teaching others.  If you’re looking for the ideal training course to equip you to teach A-level Maths, you need to go back to the A-level Maths classroom, but this time stand at the front.

How we learn, as shared by @magicalmaths

I was very proud of my own A-level results, but have become increasingly convinced that there is a yawning gulf between being able to get the best grade at A-level and being able to teach others to do so.

It’s now more than 5 years since I started teaching and the main difference between me now and NQT me (other than his gloriously unkempt facial hair and his lack of a wife…

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Counters in a Cup (Help them stay on task)

In my NQT year, I was privileged to have the opportunity to meet with a teacher called Laura who was fantastic at groupwork. My head of department used to work at her school and felt that I could learn a lot from going to see her and finding out what it was that meant her groupwork lessons were so effective.

Although I took away many ideas, there is one in particular which I have incorporated into my teaching and this is what I would like to share with you today.

When pupils are working in groups, I explain at the start that I expect every member of the group (there are usually four) to be contributing, I expect them to communicate well with each other and I expect them to stay focused on the task.

In order to help them focus, I put a plastic cup on the groups’ table. During the lesson, I walk around the room listening in on their conversations and observing their work and interactions. If they are meeting my expectations, I put a counter in their cup.

counters in a cup 2

At the end of the lesson, we count how many each group have and the pupils get rewarded in proportion to the number of counters (at first I used to just give rewards to the groups with the most counters, it depends on the class and the lesson). We have a ‘house point’ system at my school so I give out house points as a reward (they can buy chocolate in the reward shop for 10 house points so they love it!) and it seems to keep them on task.

I shared this idea at CPD at school and had really positive feedback from another teacher who tried it with a particularly chatty class – apparently it was the best lesson she’d had with them as they were eager for the counters so they stayed focused and worked hard. As it worked for her, I thought it might work for some of you 🙂

This story can also be found at http://staffrm.io/@mrsmartinmaths

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Training my pupils

Rule number 1: Get them to listen to you.

There are lots of times in a lesson where my pupils need to make the transition from working on a task to focusing on me.

Today, I overheard a conversation between my head of department and our newest PGCE student about the fact that before she said anything, she needed to get their attention and this was her first challenge upon which she would be judged (more so by the children than the observer!).

The list of options is long:

– Count down from five (especially effective if you supplement with visual finger counting down, also attempt to use vocal intonation to let them know the end is nigh!)

– Ask for attention (raising of voice may be needed)

– Raise your hand, hope to God they notice

– Turn the lights on and off

– Clap twice

– Ring a bell

– Blow a kazoo.

Well I’m pleased to say that I’ve found a method that I’m incredibly happy with and I thought I’d share it. I’d go so far as to say it’s my party trick which I’m desperate to show off when another adult is in the room.

DSC_1664

In the first few lessons with my new classes, I train them to notice when I am standing in a particular spot. This spot happens to be the place I would naturally gravitate towards when I want their attention, by the board, at the front. “When I stand in this particular spot” I would say with great importance, “I expect you to look this way and listen”. At first, we’d practice in a comedy way so they’d be working on a task and I would walk towards the spot, the volume would go down, I’d smile at them and then divert my path at the last minute (very Simon Says). They kept an eye out for me and, sure enough, as soon as I stood firmly in the spot, they were looking towards me and listening.

How do they know I really want their attention? I stand up as tall as I can, concentrating on my posture and sweep the room with my eyes, focusing on those who haven’t yet noticed, hoping they’ll feel the glare (usually someone near them gives them a quick poke!).

My classes and I get on really well with this because I never use my voice to get their attention and I always praise them for refocusing quickly. It works for me in my school context where I do have the massive pleasure of working with wonderful kids. I’m not saying it’ll work in all contexts, but if you’ve never heard of it, at least now you have one more strategy to add to the lengthy list.

This blog post is taken from my story on http://staffrm.io/@mrsmartinmaths

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A Math Inquiry With Attitude

Lovely blog on an Inquiry Maths lesson. Innovative ways of getting pupils to reflect.

Inquire Within

One of my concerns is that math in my classroom is not as inquiry based as I would like it to be.  My students and I just began a unit on Geometry.  I gave the pretest and for the most part, students had a spattering of knowledge and the test was completed with much hair pulling and cries of “Man! I KNOW this….but….I forgot!”.  When we went over the paper, I could see a collective “aha” from the majority of the students as they started to dust off the vocabulary sitting at the back of their minds.  So, what to do?

I did some scouring of the internet and came up with a couple of really interesting reads: Angle Measurement – An Opportunity for Equity, and Inquiry Maths: A Parallel Lines Inquiry.

After reading these articles, the next day my students and I sat with the pretest and…

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Don’t practise until you get it right. Practise until you can’t get it wrong.

We (the maths department) have a decent scheme of work. We get very good results (about 90% A*-C). It’s not broken, but we’re not satisfied.

We’re not happy with the spiral approach. They ‘learn’ every year and many of them forget every year. Maybe not completely, but there are definitely backwards steps that are too big.

So we’re moving towards a ‘mastery’ scheme of work approach, as outlined by Bruno Reddy here. Here’s how Bruno’s post looks in my head.

There are so many things to think about and I *really* love a list so here’s what’s in my head at the moment.

  • Teaching for deep understanding. We will need to teach in a more relational way than we currently do. Possibly more use of manipulables (as suggested by the Primary commentor on my previous post).
  • Questions. Loads of them. We’ve decided we’re not going to be afraid of doing absolutely loads of practice (hence the title), so we’re going to need plenty of questions.
  • Enrichment and connection making. We’re incredibly aware that there is a huge range of ability in year 7 when they join. This year, they went from a level 1 to a level 6 on entry. We’re a bit nervous about stretching the high ability (or, to be honest, we’re nervous about them getting bored and their parents complaining). However, we truly believe that they need the most solid of foundations if they are going to get a fantastic grade at A-Level maths (whilst we get plenty of excellent GCSE grades, the A-Level grades really sort them into the ones who ‘get it’ and the ones who ‘learnt how to do it’.
  • Assessment. Our school expect us to assess once per half term and to report on this with a ‘green sheet’, on which we write their WWWs and EBIs for that assessment. Currently, we’re thinking an Alfie test might be the way forward so that the ‘green sheet’ will automatically be filled out for us and pupils can get instant feedback without huge loads of marking. This means we can focus our time on planning those relational lessons we’re going to have to get used to teaching. I’d be creating an assessment using past SATs questions based on the topics covered that half term. It’s not ideal as we’d rather move away from SATs but it feels like the best we’ve got for now and it should help us achieve what we want at the moment.
  • Homeworks. We really like idea of the fortnightly 30 mark homeworks outlined in Mr Barton Maths’ blog on creating a new scheme of work.  20 marks from the current topic, 10 marks from all other topics, to remind pupils of previously learnt skills.
  • Reporting (meeting the school requirements). We have to complete ISMs (reports) showing a pupils’ NC level four times during the school year. We’re going to have to think about this because, for now, our school is sticking with levels.
  • SLT on board. This one is crucial, but will take some doing. We will no doubt get parental ‘inquiries’ about our new way of doing things, but we’re doing the right thing and if SLT support us, then we’ll be fine. 

Wish us luck.

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Here’s what we do now

Last Summer, I rewrote our KS3 scheme of work. I made a snazzy spreadsheet that told teachers when they should be teaching each topic, the topic title hyperlinked to an objective ticksheet for pupils and I built in a few new things that I was (and, to some extent, am) pretty proud of.

In light of the changes to KS3 and KS4, and as a result of some feelings we’ve had, for some time, about the way we teach maths, it’s going to drastically change (I hope).

However, before that change takes place, I think it is worthwhile to stop and look at what we have right now: things that work, things that could work and things that didn’t work.

Here’s a snapshot of the first half term for year 9 – drum roll for the snazzy spreadsheet please…

SoW KS3Let me decipher it for you a little.

  • We change topics every couple of weeks – because that’s what we’ve always done.
  • School policy is to do a ‘green sheet’ assessment once per half term where we mark and give written feedback to pupils on a green WWW/EBI sheet (this should be revisited after three weeks to check progress). It didn’t work for us last year when we were doing end of topic tests and then moving on, so in this scheme of work I decided we would do a ‘cumulative’ assessment each time, so we could show progress on previous learning. Also, I wanted to regularly revisit previous topics in an attempt to stop pupils forgetting!
  • FIG Friday: Functional, Inquiry or Groupwork. This is something I am proud of. One lesson per fortnight is either a lesson with a functional theme, or an Inquiry Maths lesson (see http://www.inquirymaths.com) or a groupwork lesson of some sort. It means that all our pupils get to do something a little different on a regular basis, even if that’s not their teacher’s normal style.
  • Maths OD (here’s my display board)
    1380051265661
    A bit like 4OD, it’s Maths On Demand. Pupils write on a post-it note to tell the teacher which topics they’d like to ‘see again’ – they stick them on their TV and the teacher plans a lesson around the requests. Essentially, it gives pupils the chance to make decisions about what they revise and they respond well to the lessons because they asked for them! (Of course you don’t need the display, I just like the visual representation).
  • The ‘objectives’ hyperlink links to another tab in the spreadsheet containing a topic ticksheet that looks like this:topic tick sheet
  • At the start of the topic, we use them as a discussion point with pupils to see what they already know. When we nicked them from SJB (thank you SJB!) they had three columns which pupil would tick, cross or dash, one for before the topic, one for after and one for how many questions they got right in the test. We used it in that format for a year but it didn’t work for us. We changed it to RAG at the end of the topic and that seems to be ok.
  • Resource sharing: we have a shared resources folder and I’ve just linked the folders to the SoW so it’s always up to date. We probably don’t share enough though, but what’s in the folders could do with a good sort!

So, that’s what we’ve got now. It’s been alright for a first attempt, but I’m looking for something a little more sophisticated for my next try. Maybe something a little less busy (a bit like this one by Bruno Reddy perhaps: http://www.mrbartonmaths.com/blog/writing-new-scheme-work-part-3-advice/). Definitely something that works smarter not harder.

I like this tweet from Andrew Blair…

tweet

 

I feel like this could apply equally to a scheme of work. Less to it and more in it… room to explore and master.

I’ll keep you posted…

 

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