New ‘Pedagogy’ topic- sharing thoughts, ideas and good practice


First of all let me say a HUGE thanks to everyone who has been following this website in the short two weeks that it has been running. As of today we have had 179 different visitors to the site from 14 different countries including 1 visitor from Brunei! People have been downloading the resources non-stop. In the first fortnight it seems as though the site is already helping maths teachers improve their practice and save time by sharing ideas and resources which was the mission from the start.

To build on the great early success of the site I’ve introduced a new topic of blog posts called ‘Pedagogy’. You’ll see it in the menu at the top of the page. The idea is to blog about pedagogy: the method and practice of teaching sharing things that I have learned, experimented with or good practice other people have written about. Will it be subjective? Of course. Will I change my mind about things as I become more experienced? Undoubtedly. Is it still worth blogging about? Definitely because healthy debate and reflection is always a good thing, for beginners just as much as for experienced pros.

This area of the blog will be much more interesting if people get involved in the debate, sharing their thoughts and experiences. You can do this by simply submiting them in the ‘comments’ section at the end of blog posts. Let me know what you think of my first pedagogy blog post Going through the praise withdrawal.

Thanks again and I hope you keep finding the site useful and thought-provoking.

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Going through the praise withdrawal


Is giving lots of praise counter-productive?

It seems as though recent research is suggesting so. Too much praise apparently can send the message that you are surprised the kids can solve the problems you set them and actually leads to them becoming demotivated. Read more of this post

Giving rotational symmetry the ‘wow’ factor


This video is taken from the iTunes Visualiser called Jelly that makes pretty patterns that react in real time to the music that is playing. The patterns produced show rotational symmetry and could be used as an excellent resource in a starter or plenary on the topic.

Download this video in 3GP format here.

Download this video in FLV format here.

Download this video in MP4 format here.

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Marathon Man Bearings


Eddie Izzard

Image via Wikipedia

In 2009, comedian Eddie Izzard ran 43 marathons in 51 days around the UK. He endured blisters, losing a toenail and damaging an ankle ligament. He also had daily ice baths which, in his own words, were “to stop your legs inflating to the size of an elephant”! After running over 1100 miles he returned to Trafalgar Square on 15th September 2010.

This is a fascinating story and one that you can use to inspire your pupils! Read more of this post

Pure inspiration- nature by numbers


This has to be one of the very best videos I have ever seen to show the beauty and power of maths. Just imagine all the ways you could use this to inspire the kids.

No further comments needed!

Download the movie in 3GP file format here.

Download the movie in FLV file format here.

Download the movie in MP4 file format here.

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Rotational symmetry- synchronised swimming


Further to our post “Symmetry the fun way: B-boy dancing“, Mr Williams suggested a great idea of using synchronised swimming as inspiration for a lesson about rotational symmetry.

Here is the Japanese Team in full flow at the Sydney Olympics:

There is an excellent routine at about 2 mins into the video which has some fantastic rotational symmetry in it. You could freeze frame the video here and use it to demonstrate the concept.

There are endless possibilities you could go on with from here: could they design their own synchronised swimming pattern/ routine and draw it or act it out on land, get them in the pool for a cross-curricular link if you have one or could they do some research for a homework to find as many pictures showing rotational symmetry in sports and other applications as they can? Great fun.

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Making 100


Pupils write out the digits 1 to 10 like this:

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

The aim is to create an expression that equals 100 by putting as many + – X and / signs between the digits as they like. You might like to demo one like this:

1    2   3 + 4   5   6  X 7 / 8 – 9 = 123 + 456 X 7 / 8 – 9 = 513

Obviously this one is too high but it does illustrate the method. You can decide whether the pupils must use BODMAS or not (I’d suggest they do!) and whether they are allowed to put brackets in as well.

There are many solutions and you might like to post them in the comments section below when you find them!

Thanks to Cat for this engaging little starter. It might make a brilliant homework too!

Have fun!

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Symmetry the fun way: B-boy dancing!


Got to do a lesson about line symmetry and looking for inspiration? Check out this Youtube video of Korean B-boy dancers doing a ‘mirror dance’:

You could use this as inspiration for the pupils and then get them creating their own symmetrical dance routines. This is plane symmetry rather than line symmetry but the concept should be transferable. You could even get the audience to state where the planes of symmetry are in the dance routines they are watching and also encourage the dancers to change where the plane of symmetry is during their routines. The possibilities are endless!

A great teaching strategy, particularly for the kinaesthetic learners.

A big thanks to Vicky for this great idea.

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Who is the best England batsman? An investigation using the mean, median, mode and range


Cricket isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but this lesson idea hasn’t failed to motivate any class that I have tried it on.

The idea is simple- look at the real world batting scores of England batsmen and use the mean, median, mode and range to decide who is the ‘best’ batsman. Each group of pupils are given these worksheets which list the scores, explains the task and also contain pictures that they might like to stick on a poster next to their statistical analysis and interpretive reasoning. Read more of this post

Taboo words


Thanks to Sarah for this brilliant way to assess understanding of concepts and maths vocabulary.

Split the class up into groups of 4-6. Each group gets a set of small cards which each have on them one maths related word. The first thing they have to do is write on each card, under the math related word which is at the top, three words that people will not be allowed to use when describing the top word. For example, if the top word is circumference then three words the team could write underneath could be circle, perimeter and length. The idea is to make the describing of the top word as tricky as possible. The words that they can’t use when describing the top words are called Taboo words.

The sets of cards are then passed onto another group and one person in the group gets 1 minute to describe as many of the top words as possible to their group colleagues without using the taboo words. The teams get a point for each correct word they guess. Each team has a go and the scores added up at the end to identify the winning team. You can do a tie-breaker round if necessary.

There are lots of variations you could do of this game and it does seem to really engage the kids and is an excellent way to revise key vocabulary and assess conceptual knowledge.

Height vs arm length- are they related?


Here’s a great little investigation into whether a person’s height and arm length are related. The pupils get a copy of this worksheet and have to use a metre stick to measure the height and arm length of ten of their class colleagues to the nearest cm. After recording their results in a table they draw a scatter graph and answer the questions at the bottom of the worksheet to think about whether there is a correlation. They could be encouraged to share their findings and justification with the class in a discussion in the plenary.

You’ll need metre rulers or tape measures and graph paper for this lesson in addition to the worksheets. Enjoy!

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Keeping the work ethic


Thanks to Lewis H for this great idea to keep the pupils on task:

To monitor pupils learning, write the time in the margins of a pupil’s book, and then come back 15 mins later to write the new time. No need to say anything! Pupils then have to answer to the evidence (or lack of) in their books!

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Introducing algebra- consecutive numbers addition puzzle


Here’s are really good way of introducing algebra and getting across the idea of what a variable is. The pdf slides that you can use on the interactive white board to run this activity are here.

Start by getting the pupils to draw this diagram in their books:

Read more of this post

The Area Song…


How do you teach kids to remember how to calculate areas of shapes? Here’s one method…

Sing the following song to the tune of Pop Goes The Weasel:

Verse 1:

Multiply the length by the width

Gives the area of a rectangle.

Base times height divided by two

Now gives a triangle.

Verse 2:

Half the sum of the parallel sides

Times the distance between them.

That’s the way to calculate

The area of a trapezium.

If you start them off in year 7 regularly singing the first verse, then move them onto singing the second verse regularly in year 9 by the time they get to their exam in year 11 they’ll never forget how to calculate areas!

Here is a link to a pdf file with the song lyrics on that you can show on the interactive white board.

I can’t remember who told us of this one but a big thank you to you!

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Mexican Wave Sequences


A great little game to make sequences fun!

Get the pupils into a horseshoe. Put up an nth term rule on the board. They have to do a mexican wave around the horseshoe but as they stand up they have to shout out the next term in the sequence. The first person is n=1, second person is n=2 etc… See if they can get all the way around the horseshoe without making a mistake. If they do make a mistake they have to start again! Increase the complexity of the nth term rules as you go along!

A great game as it reinforces the idea that the common difference is the coefficient of the n term.

Sorry, I can’t remember who put forward this idea but it is brilliant. Thank you!

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Mathematics can be cool


Professor Brian Cox isn’t just a nerdy particle physicist. Years ago he was the keyboard player for the famous music group D:Ream which made the hit single Things can only get better. Here is a link to a great little 5 minute video the BBC did with him at The Science Museum where he talks about his life, his work and the big ideas in maths and science.

It’s a great way to show your pupils that not all mathematicians are just mathematicians and that there are big links between the worlds of maths and science.

Thanks to Ben for suggesting this idea.

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Wanna be in my gang?


A great little game to get kids thinking about types of numbers.

Think of a particular type of numbers that you want the pupils to guess. This could be square numbers, cube numbers, triangle numbers, even numbers etc… Tell the pupils that they need to guess a number between 0 and 100. If their number matches your hidden criteria then you say “you’re in my gang”. If the number doesn’t match your hidden criteria then you say “you’re not in my gang”. The pupils keep guessing until they work out what type of numbers you are thinking of.

Big thanks to Nicola for this great idea.

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Sudoku Fridays


Start your Friday lessons with a Sudoku challenge for your students! Use it as a starter over a series of weeks and see their progression. Get them to discuss their logical thinking and to explain how they solve the problems. Can they write a set of rules you can use to solve all Sudoku puzzles?

Get free Sudoku puzzles online at http://www.websudoku.com/

Thanks to Vicky F for this idea!

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Substitution Top Trumps


Do you remember playing the Top Trumps card game as a kid? Here are a couple of Top Trumps card game resources that will make any lesson about substitution really fun.

Click here for the animal substitution Top Trump cards.

Click here for the dinosaur substitution Top Trump cards. These are for higher attaining classes and feature brackets and indices.

There are lots of ways you can play Top Trumps but here’s one suggestion of how you can run the activity:

  • Give one set of the cards to each pair.
  • Place one of the cards defining a=, b=, c= on each table.
  • Each pair splits their set of cards randomly into two and take one pile each.
  • The first player speaks out a characteristic and the value (obtained by using substitution), e.g. “Speed 5”.
  • The second player would look up the speed characteristic on their card and calculates the value.
  • The person with the highest value is the winner and takes both cards and puts them at the back of their pile. If it is a draw then each player puts their own card to the back or their pile.
  • The winner then starts the next turn by looking at the next card in their pile and reading out a characteristic and the value.
  • The game carries on until one person has all of the cards.

Have fun!

Thanks to “kez84” on www.tes.co.uk for this excellent resource and also to Steph W for suggesting it.

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