Archive | February, 2016

Best Buy!

29 Feb

Like a lot of teachers I spend a fair amount on things to support my teaching. For example, the smelly stickers from PTS are a favourite of mine for using as rewards. However, without a doubt the best buy I’ve made so far is my Hue HD webcam. This may seem expensive at £39.90, but considering I use it every day it has paid for itself time and time again!


It’s basically a webcam, but it has a weighted base and an adjustable arm so it works really well as a visualizer. You install the software (this takes a couple of minutes) and then simply plug in via the USB connector. I use this on a daily basis and it really is brilliant! Here are some ways I use it:

  • Pick a student at the end of the lesson and display their work. Get the class to assess it and feedback. This is an instant plenary, it exposes misconceptions, promotes discussion, encourages good presentation and much more!
  • As an extension get a student to write an exam question on the topic you’ve been doing. Then just put their question under the webcam and you’ve got your plenary sorted.
  • Display an exit ticket from the previous lesson and get students to find the mistake as a starter.
  • Display students’ exam responses and get pupils to mark them.
  • Use after marking books to showcase really good work or a mistake lots have made.
  • Use when teaching constructions (or measuring angles etc.) so pupils can physically see you doing it.
  • Use to display a nice question in a book which you only have 1 copy of.

The webcam also has a little button on the top which takes a picture, so you can save their work, tweet it, email it to a parent – whatever you fancy!

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Exam Technique

28 Feb

A quick blog about different strategies and resources to get your class and classroom exam ready!


exam command words Command Word Display

Print this NumberLoving display for your classroom and use it to reinforce the meaning of command words. They can displayed along side the meaning and it also a good activity to remove the command word and ask the pupils to state the command word given the meaning.

Exam Countdown Display

Print and laminate this exam countdown display, displaying the most appropriate length of time, whether it be months, weeks or days. Using a whiteboard pen this can easily be updated so the countdown to exams is clear for all.

Exam Practice

Training to Triple read

Encourage pupils not only to read the questions but to triple read the question, each time with a different purpose;

  1. Highlight the figures in yellow (numbers or words e.g half)
  2. Highlight command words in green
  3. Read again “aloud in your head” with emphasise on those words

Do this as part of your teaching, highlighting in two colours, modelling by reading aloud with emphasis on command words. It will soon become part and parcel of pupils’ approach to questions.

Start from the back

Little change with the potential of a big impact on pupils’ resilience and mindset. Starting from the back when pupils are more focused and moving towards the front of the paper and the easier questions. Very relevant if working on papers in class, start from the back so pupils can get support from peers, the teacher etc.

However we are not fans of death by past paper, check out our post “Anything but more past papers” for alternative revision techniques.

Walking Talking Mock

This is large scale modelling; modelling as a teaching strategy is simply put as ‘thinking out loud’. Therefore modelling for pupils the thought processes when approaching problems. Pupils will increasingly take this role of modelling, guided and refined by the teacher. The walking-talking mock is described by the Guardian here as the “new initiative intended to boost students’ exam technique”. In brief it is a large scale version of modelling, highlighting exam technique and key exam words, the lead teacher hints, modelling thought processes related to the mock paper in front of the pupil, question by question in the exam hall. Dragonfly Training give a good description of how they ran a walking-talking mock here or check out Kristian Still’s blog here, this is another good example of how to approach the walking talking mock.

Key Skills Builder

As mentioned in our post some topics keep on coming up so it is important that these skills are embedded in pupils’ practice. We discuss exam warm ups as a way of reinforcing and revising vital topics. Check out the blog here.

Has anyone used these strategies or other strategies? We would love to hear you views! Get in touch @numberloving and follow our Facebook NumberLoving Page

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How do you teach yours? Dept. CPD

16 Feb

Effective use of department time, this is a daunting task for a newly appointed head of department! So like most when I first took this responsibility I made sharing good practice (SGP) a permanent agenda item as one way of continuous professional development. However, I soon realised that this wasn’t meeting the needs of professional development for the team, all of which were at different stages of their career. The sharing good practice item too often had become one member of the department “sharing a resource” they have used or ‘found’ recently. For many reasons I decided to keep the format of SGP (rota basis throughout the department). So instead of replacing it, I added other activities to department meetings that I felt actually resulted in discussions of good practice in terms of the teaching of Mathematics. In this post I describe three tried and tested strategies for keeping the objective of deeper understanding at the forefront of your departments’ planning and preparation.

First: Why the importance in the Teaching of Mathematics
One of the key message from “Mathematics: made to measure” (read it here) is our responsibility to enable all pupils to develop a conceptual understanding of the mathematics they learn, its structures and relationships and fluent recall of mathematical knowledge and skills in order to equip them to solve familiar problems as well as tackle creatively the more complex and unfamiliar ones that lie ahead. The Ofsted 2012 descriptors found on page 30 of this summary of  Mathematics’ reports (another good read) are certainly still relevant when discussing teaching approaches with your department. One element for outstanding quality of teaching is; “Teaching is rooted in the development of all pupils’ conceptual understanding of important concepts and progression within the lesson and over time. It enables pupils to make connections between topics and see the ‘big picture’”.

The Bigger Picture


This is a simple concept in which you ask the department to work in pairs during department time, to consider particular topics/skills on three different levels.
1. Method; what is the method, the skill in its most basic form? Are there any generalisations (known by some as rules grrr)?
2. Understanding; How do you teach for understanding? How do you lead the pupils to make their own generalisations?
3. The bigger picture; What are the applications? Are there any links to other topics?

This really is a great for unpicking your departments’ approaches to individual topics in detail. Often revealing gaps in staff knowledge and understanding (particularly NQT/RQT’s), and can even reveal if staff have been oblivious using and teaching tricks just because they were taught that way. How many of your department now how to conceptually explain the division of a fraction by a fraction. This NumberLoving resource, download for free from here, includes a number of examples such as operating with indices,operating with fractions, standard form and a blank grid (probably the most useful) which you can adapt to suit any topic coming up in your scheme of work.

How do you teach yours?
how teach blankThis second approach requires some forward planning, and forethought from your department members. Prior to the meeting give each member of the department a “How do you teach yours” sheet on the topic you will be discussing. Here is an example of what this might look like for the topics of multiplication and division.

how you teachAs you can see the department members are asked to complete each indicating how they would teach the pupils, prior to the meeting. Once at the meeting methods, approaches are discussed and debated. This naturally leads to an agreement of what is the best way to teach for understanding. Once agreed on the best approach this can be documented as shown in the example on the right.

This department activity could easily be adapted for any subject area. I have provided three examples of “How do you teach yours” to help get you started. Download it for free here.

imageDepartment Reading
This can be done with any text or report which you feel will aid discussion. With a pre-determined focus direct the department towards the book/report, or even better provide a paper copy in their tray. Department should read this in preparation for the meeting.

Nix the tricks
As described on the website this book is “filled with alternatives to the shortcuts so prevalent in mathematics education and explains exactly why the tricks are so bad for understanding math”.  I would highly recommend providing each member of your department with this book. This makes for both a great discussion point and a handy resource for alternative methods. I have also found it useful as a point of referral when during work samples I have observed potential teaching of tricks and not of understanding.  This book can be purchased online or downloaded as a pdf for free from the Nix the Tricks website here

I hope this has provided some ideas of how to promote continuous professional development rooted around the effective teaching of mathematics!

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Decorate your door!

11 Feb

A nice, simple display for all the doors in the department!


Download the resource from our TES store for free now!

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Lessons in Love- Number Love

7 Feb

‘<3’ Is a HEART, composed of two parts.

In Mathematics,  this means “less than three”.

Because in real life, LOVE has no space for a third,

Love is only you and me!

It is that time of year and both NumberLoving authors are feeling the love with two weddings to plan, so here are some more math Valentine’s Day activities!

geometry valentine poems-001Mathematical Valentine Rhyme Challenge

Challenge your pupils to write a mathematical rhyme including a set number of mathematical terms. This is a great idea I found on Craft Moms share blog here and the example on the left is taken from their blog and includes 7 maths terms. I will be challenging my pupils to come up with their rhymes for homework! Check this one out, not by a pupil but still a great poem!

We have a number of Valentine and love themed mysteries, in which pupils use the clues to solve the question. Mysteries are a thinking skills activity;



parallel linesAlso not to be missed;

Check out these blogs for great valentines maths ideas;

Googol power bring a wide variety of activities, I like this activity finding the area and perimeter of hearts. Pupils estimate and for extra challenge ask them to calculate. Even better get pupils to use Desmos as described in Colleen Young’s blog here to create their own heart, math-o-gram. Then ask pupils to find the area and perimeter.

One of my favourite activities making heart shaped mobius strips and other great ideas in our blog “Valentine’s Day, send Mobius Hearts Our Way” for other valentine maths activities. valentines

Make Sierpiński sieve pop heart with instructions from 360 (don’t be put off by the dinosaur).

Speed dating with data collection in this blog we describe how to set up a speed dating activity allowing for data collection.

So who will be your math-en-tine?

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AQA Maths Topic Analysis

3 Feb

It’s getting to that time of year where we start to think about year 11 revision, but it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. Obviously you speak to your class and you analyse their mock papers but beyond that it’s impossible to revise everything. So, as a starting point I decided to analyse all the AQA Linear Maths papers from the last 4 years to see which topics were a good bet. Here are the top ten topics from higher.


And the top ten topic from foundation.


These results should make for an interesting discussion with your department, there are certainly things which I have never considered revising in detail (like money) but which should offer a good pay off for students. Obviously these results need to be taken with a good dose of common sense too!

If you are with OCR there is a similar analysis available on TES here shared by m34maths.

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