Archive | February, 2012

On our Best Behaviour

18 Feb

Starting out in the classroom can be daunting for many, this post aims to give tips and strategies for teachers starting out to help work towards good behaviour or keeping good pace within lessons. Of course a wide variety of strategies are needed, and there are many more to those listed here but my biggest discovery was positive reinforcement, praising those doing well or behaviour appropriately.

Raffle Tickets

This idea was introduced to me when I was a NQT. Pupils are rewarded with a raffle ticket for whatever you need them to be encouraged to do; whether it be academic or behavioural praise. I found that the sooner I could give some praise the easier behaviour management became to manage. At the end of the lesson the raffle is drawn (get a pupil to help prepare the raffle), pupils can be rewarded with a school house point, a merit, a sticker or even a funky rubber.

Quiet Signals

When I was an NQT I learnt quickly to save and look after my voice, so I developed a number of quiet signals that I used depending on the class.

Quiet Corner- I designated a corner of the classroom and when I stood there pupils had to be quiet. If you don’t have a corner grab a bright coloured mat, call it the quiet spot.

Sound Monitor- Easily made using red, orange and green paper mounted to the wall to make a dial from red to green. A pupil is in charge of monitoring the noise level, by moving the arrow from the green (quiet) to red (too noisy). For those on a less restricted budget you can now buy an electronic version in the form of traffic lights from PTS here.

Hand Signals- Start from day one and the oldest of pupils I have found still respond to this. When you need pupils to listen, hold your hand up. I found it helps if I thank those that respond by holding their hand up, reinforcing this behaviour has many quickly following. If there is a delay start counting down and lowering your arm to the floor; OK now and then you have to put a half and a quarter in there but pupils get the message. 

Pupil Selector

Check out Laura’s blog on using lollysticks to choose pupils, try this fruit machine name generator once you’ve added a class you can save the link for next time.

Homework Hat

Again designed to save your voice. Wear any hat that grabs pupils attention, when you wear the hat pupils must get their homework planners out to write their homework in, hand their homework in. If not a hat some crazy sunglasses, the crazier the better.

I adapted this idea and instead I honk an old fashioned bike horn, aptly named the homework horn by my students. These are available from Hawkin’s Bizarre here.


Giving pupils a clear time frame for tasks helps to maintain pace and purpose with each activities so where suitable I use these timers. This online stopwatch is easy to use and has a full screen option to display on the interactive whiteboard. Check out the classroom timers on the above link, my favourite the bomb timer for instilling urgency into team games and group work.

Class Eyes

These eyes from EChalk are a great little gimic, especially if the eye movement coincides with movement within class. I use this for the younger pupils, just as an extra deter ant when taking a test.


So we indulge in some extrinsic motivation from time to time but that does not mean we hand out sweets/candy. Instead we reward pupils with mini puzzles and my favourite the rubics keyrings (available here). Or get some personalised stickers or stampers available in many places such as the Primary Teaching Site here, my favourite are the cola scented stickers here.

Get in touch @numberloving and check out our free and premium resources in our TES NumberLoving Store.

Love for the lollysticks

16 Feb

The basic idea with lolly-sticks is that each student in the class has a stick with their name on. These sticks are then used to select students for lots of different things, a simple idea but oh so effective! You can buy them from lots of places, cheapest are tesco or ebay (or work your way through 200 mini-milk!)

I have heard these referred to as ‘the sticks of doom’ but I prefer ‘the sticks of opportunity’.

Here are a few ideas for using them:

1) Whenever you have a question, instead of asking for hands up, or picking on a student who is almost asleep you just pick a name from the sticks. After a couple of weeks the students realise they could be asked at any moment and they need to have something to say, this means more attentive, engaged students.

2) To make sure all students think about the question don’t pick the name before asking the question. Ask the question, give some thinking time, then pick the stick!

3) If you get the response ‘dunno’ then give students 30 seconds to discuss the question in their pairs or fours and then come back to them

4) Instead of choosing the sticks yourself, pick one out at the start and that student picks the sticks for that lesson

5) Jobs like handing out resources are easily delegated by selecting a stick. They are also great for picking pairs or teams, they can’t argue with the sticks!

6) I use mine when playing bingo (see here for resources), rather than students shouting out answers, or using mini whiteboards, you select a stick and that person answers the question on that slide.

7) These are also good for picking students to play games on the IWB, or hot seat activities

8) You can still differentiate your questions, pick the name and tailor the question e.g. John gets picked and you ask ‘is this a square number?’ whereas Amy gets picked and you ask ‘explain why this is a square number’

9) Use them to pick experts, for those unfamiliar with this concept, you choose six to eight students who come to the front and are taught a new skill – particularly good when doing constructions. These ‘experts’ then go back to their desks and teach their table the skill. Makes a great lesson which students love!

10) These are also great for getting to learn names at the start of the year rather than just knowing the noisy or naughty ones!

In all honesty these sticks changed everything about my teaching and my students’ learning … Stick with them (!) and you will reap the rewards. Get in touch @numberloving and check out our free and premium resources in our TES NumberLoving Store.

Number Loving Loves…

14 Feb

Valentine’s Day is the time to acknowledge those things you love and couldn’t live (or teach) without, so here are my top ten teaching crushes…

1) @taylorda01 and his blog to infinity and beyond

2) @mrbartonmaths and his fabulous website do follow him on twitter as every day he recommends a brilliant resource of the day (ROTD – wonder where he thought up that acronym(!))

3) @mrprcollins and his really interesting blog reflective journal 

4) @ColleenYoung and her amazing blog mathematics learning and web 2.0

5) William Emeny’s blog great maths teaching ideas

6) @riley_ed and his blog new tech timeline, check out his most recent post about manga high

7) @mrbuckton4maths and his YouTube channel past paper solutions, also check out his tes page for over 1,000 quality resources

8) @reflectivemaths aka Dave Gale and his blog reflective maths teacher

9) @Mr_BRouse and his blog Ben Rouse has some really interesting thoughts and resources for use of technology in the classroom

10) Time for some shameless self promotion, @laurareeshughes and @numberloving, follow us for updates on the blog and news on the new resource site which will be up and running next month!

If you are not signed up to twitter then I would really recommend it, it is a great forum to find new ideas and inspirational teachers to follow. Tips for beginners here.

Get in touch @numberloving and check out our free and premium resources in our TES NumberLoving Store.

Cracking Maths Jokes

13 Feb

Bringing jokes into the maths classroom can not only create a great atmosphere it can test pupils understand or even more revealing can they think ‘outside the box’.

Mr Barton has a great collection of maths jokes on his site, from those useful at keystage 3, 4 and 5. Here is a great forum chat from TES registered teachers with great contributions of maths jokes. Check out Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks.

Jokes for KS3

What did the zero say to the eight?… Nice belt

Jokes for KS4

What did the eight say to the infinity?….Are you drunk again?

“What did the circle say to the tangent?………..Eeee stop touching me!”

My all time favourite and incorporated into a free collect a joke surds classroom activity (see here)

I was in a queue for a night club when these two guys in front of me started arguing. The first guy pushed the second and said “four, nine”. The second guy pushed back and said “sixteen and twenty-five”. The next thing the bouncer was on his walkie talkie and he said “I need some back up at the door, there are two blokes here squaring up to each other”.

My year 11 class gave me some stick about that one, but I know they were laughing really!

Jokes for A’ Level/Adults

Check out #mathjokes on twitter for math jokes, be warned not all are suitable for pupils and like all twitter matters content can be varied.

Get in touch @numberloving and check out our free and premium resources in our TES NumberLoving Store.

Magic Maths

10 Feb

As a self-confessed maths geek I am not ashamed to admit that I love nothing more than a good puzzle; even better a magic trick. So Derren Brown eat your heart out here are my favourite magic maths resources.

For starters I would recommend Martin Gardiner’s book ‘mathematical magic and mystery’ which contains loads of ideas and tricks which are easy to perform and the maths is well explained.

Number Tricks

There are a lot of tricks which involve taking a number, performing various operations and ending with a prediction, all of these tricks can be proven using algebra. My favourite ever trick of this type is this mind-reader (see here for a version on a flipchart), students will be fascinated and utterly convinced that it can predict their thoughts! This is great as a starter for KS3 to get students working on mental methods of calculations. At a higher level you can get students to investigate why this works and bring in some algebra!

Card Tricks

There are many great card tricks which work due to Maths (see below for some detailed resources), the one below is my favourite, challenge yourself to work it out and amaze the students for instant respect!


Shape Tricks

I was genuinely amazed when I discovered the amazing properties of the Möbius strip whilst at University and it never fails to impress. The video below demonstrates only a few of the activities you can do, this makes a great shape lesson, ask students to predict each time what will happen and watch them gasp in amazement (no, really!)

I am a big fan of origami and I think this falls into the category of magic, this is my favourite origami activity, students can follow the video to make a lotus flower. This makes a really nice shape lesson (also involving fractions, angle and proportion) and you can bring in some cultural discussion too. Alternatively these are some nice origami resources with clear instructions.

Great General Resources

  • This resource contains twenty-five great tricks which are all clearly linked to the curriculum, magic squares, number tricks, topological tricks and more!
  • This is a great booklet with tricks for students, I have used this with year 7 and 8’s as an ice breaker at the start of term. In the first lesson they each get given a trick to learn and in the following lesson they have to perform and explain it.
  • I am a big fan of Matt Parker and he has provided loads of amazing ideas on mathematical magic, this booklet contains so many genuinely fascinating tricks including how to calculate faster than a calculator and how to teleport mathematically!

Get in touch @numberloving and check out our free and premium resources in our TES NumberLoving Store.

Beautiful Reflections

8 Feb

Mirror mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?

Beauty is often linked closely with the symmetry of the face meaning there are many applications in the classroom!

Reflecting faces

For the hook to my reflection lesson I created a short investigation into beauty of the rich and famous! Some stars with a symmetrical face (Angelina Jolie) and some stars not so fortunate (Wayne Rooney and Susan Boyle).

Find a portrait photo of the star (or pupils can investigate their own face) and paste the photo into Power Point three times. The first gets left as it is, the second they crop to just show the left side of the face, the third the right side of the face.

Then make a copy of each half face, select one of the half faces and in the picture tools go to rotate and flip horizontal. They can then compare the reflected celebrities with the original! Here is a Power Point of some of the famous faces I looked at with my year 7 class.

Please note your school’s policy regarding photography of pupils.

On-line web cams like this one are great for school laptops with built-in cameras, pupils can look at their face using the symmetry camera. Be warned this is not something to do at the beginning of your lesson!

Substituting into expressions

On the topic of beauty this is another activity I use when studying substitution into expressions. Students have to measure lengths on the faces and sub into the expressions, the closer to 1 their answers the more ‘attractive’ the face (the expressions are all based on the golden ratio). I ask them to find the mean of all their answers and then order the celebrities. Measuring lengths, substitution, calculator skills, surds, averages and ordering decimals, so much Maths and they won’t even realise! You could of course ask them to do it with their own faces but in my experience this quickly descends into chaos!

You could even start with this video from the BBC or this video all about the golden ratio presented by none other than Carol Vorderman!

Get in touch @numberloving and check out our free and premium resources in our TES NumberLoving Store.


Computer room lessons sorted – no mymaths allowed!

6 Feb

Computers are a great way to enhance student learning and there are so many great resources out there there’s really no excuse for not letting the students loose! And there’s no excuse for letting them sit on mymaths for an hour (my pet hate!), so here are NumberLoving’s favourite computer lessons.


Geogebra is a brilliant software package which is totally free and allows students to explore all sorts of mathematical concepts. I have made some ready to go lessons (available here) on a range of topics from circle theorems to adding fractions. There are also hundreds of resources on the geogebra website which are all free to access.

My favourite lesson in geogebra is getting students to create some transformation patterns (instructions here) which they can then manipulate to investigate the effect of transformations on length and angle. You can also use these patterns in the following lesson to get students to identify which transformations were used.

Middle Spot

I discovered this website a while ago and it transformed by computer lessons, it is very simple and allows you to produce your own website with instructions, links and downloadable content. This is where I link in everything which I want students to do.


This is a great website which allows students to post virtual sticky notes on a message board, this is one made by my year 10 class whilst investigating straight line graphs in geogebra. You can ask them to post their findings or any questions.


Autograph is a fabulous piece of software which has endless applications in Mathematics teaching, if you want to learn more I would suggest you have a look at the tutorials by Mr Barton – you will be an expert in no time.


Excel is a great tool for graph drawing but students find this pretty simple so it’s often a good way to get them drawing graphs quickly in order to compare some data. This investigation by Nrich is great, if students want to draw boxplots you can give them this template otherwise it gets a bit tricky.

The national strategies have loads of really good lessons using excel which are really worth a look at. This is a good resource in which students can use trial and improvement to find square and cube roots, and this one where they investigate using trial and improvement to find solutions to an equation.

If you are looking for a little starter for students in the computer room then dwatson802 has shared loads of interactive worksheets on the TES which are really worth a download, they even mark themselves too!

World Maths Day and Sumdog

If you are not signed up for world maths day then do it NOW! Registration is free and students love going on this to compete against other pupils from around the world. They can practice for the next month until the challenge on the 7th of march. If your students like it then Sumdog is a similar website which is free all year round, yay!


My students love xtranormal, it is basically a website where they can make their own cartoon animations. They will not need any instruction on this, it is very intuitive. You could ask them to make a revision cartoon, or act out a distance time graph or loads of other ideas. Sign up yourself but pick a generic login like ‘year9maths’ and then they can all login using this.

If you have a computer lesson you love doing then please leave us a comment below! Get in touch @numberloving and check out our TES NumberLoving Store for free and premium resources.

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