Tag Archives: mathchat

How do you teach yours? Dept. CPD

16 Feb slide3

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!

Thank you for reading!

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.

Spooktacular Colour by Numbers

30 Oct

Colour by number is a well known childhood activity and in most cases requires no maths other than number recognition.

paint by number completepaint by number blank






Take for example this Halloween Scarecrow picture, which I have completed online using the Color It by Numbers website here. As you can see each number represents a particular colour and once finished the image is more defined.

To add difficulty to this activity each number can be replaced by a question with that numerical answer. For example this pumpkin colour by number requires students to solve the equations to find the value of x. Each answer is then one of the five colours. This worksheet can be downloaded from Education.com, which is a free account based website.

I am still not satisfied that there is enough challenge for all pupils, in which case I use a blank template such as this bat picture below taken from Coloritbynumber.com here, and ask pupils to create their own question with the correct numerical values for which ever topic is most relevant. blank bat

You could ask pupils to create a set of questions limited by topic area for example; BIDMAS, solving equations, area, perimeter, evaluating formulae, alternatively pupils could create it based on a number of topics recently studied. Their work (when checked) could then be given an a starter of homework activity for another class.

Other Halloween Activities we Love

Relay Races

halloween relayWe love relay races as a great team and review activity, check out our blog post here about how to run a relay race. A collection of relay races for all occasions, not just Halloween, can be downloaded from here made by Chris Smith @AAP03102.

Skeleton Rotational Symmetry


Check out our post on making some Halloween decorations using rotational symmetry here.

Witches Brew

witches brew

Check out our blog here.

Thank you for reading NumberLoving!

Sharon and Laura


Volume with Mario and Luigi

30 Oct

angry2One of our most popular blog posts to date has been “Nets to catch Angry Birds” (view here) in which these computer game characters are constructed into 3D shapes using nets. Leading to investigations about area, volume, surface area and scale factors and some great display work.

In our pursuit to continue to “Pimp Our Displays” as described in an earlier post here, I wanted to do something different to Angry Birds. I’ll admit I am not an avid game player at all but even I know Minecraft is big and very ‘blocky’ in its nature, so I went searching and it really didn’t take long, here is what I found. First I came across this TES resource, which includes the net of a Minecraft zombie and creeper, this was uploaded by Daniohara.

minecraft_steveSome further research and I found FPS-X-Games.com blog by Steven Bear and his printable resources on his post “Minecraft Mob” here. His post includes nets to build Steve the Minecraft character, shown on the left. Nets to make the Creeper, the Pig, the Zombie and the Spider.

Barking Dog also provides printable nets for the Minecraft materials such as sand, dirt, stone and grass, check it out here. And check out a Minecraft Fan Club page here with more printable nets.

I was still not satisfied, I continued to think about how I could bring the classwork into a great display and bingo I thought Mario! Mario is timeless, everyone knows Mario, Luigi, those blocks and that tune!

Wow check out this site Deviant Art and Taringa.net from here I downloaded the resources ready for the Mario class and display work. So the plan is to print these in full colour, pupils can then construct, consolidating their learning about surface area. I will then make a Mario 3D display, by having at least two separate rows of 3D mystery blocks and 3D versions of Mario, Luigi and the other characters. I will then get the pupils to do the calculations of volume or surface area alongside the display!

Check these out nets;

mario_bros___cubeecraft___papercraft_by_marcokobashigawa-d6z2mps cube mariomushroom
luigi_mario_bros___cubeecraft___papercraft_by_marcokobashigawa-d6z2luxSo what if Mario is not your thing, just image search “Cubecraft Cartoons” and if there is a cartoon character you can think of I bet it is there!

Thanks for reading NumberLoving, we hope you find the ideas useful!

Pimp Your Displays

25 Oct

Hello Readers!

Its been a while since we’ve blogged, we promise it’s for a good reason as we work behind the scenes on the next phase for NumberLoving which we can’t wait to share!! Watch this space!

In the meantime, I want to talk about ‘pimping’ those display! This year one of our focuses is displays, in and out of the classroom. We want to not only update them but reinvigorate them, move away from the dull, unnegiotable displays that have existed for years, to exciting and moveable, easily updated and useful displays!! This year we are rotating department time around the maths classrooms, each teacher hosts; setting up tables, providing a puzzle and putting the kettle! The department then decide on 2 stars and a wish for the room! I got this idea from Mr Jon Colebrook @ColebrookJon at the SSAT London Achievement Show 2015, so simple but effective as everyone takes pride in their classroom and the learning environment they provide!

Celebrating Pupil Work

Great Work Hangs Out Here












Check out my newest display, eagerly awaiting great work! The pegs make this one of the most versatile displays for celebrating pupils work. I’ve used it to peg Y12 A Level maths work up after marking a homework assessment. Also great during the lesson to peg examples of excellent answers!

I also love ‘This work is Incredible’ with Hulk presiding over the work shared by @HeadofEnglish here! Another example using pegs for interchangeable displays!

Variations on this could be an ‘In the Spotlight” display using paper that looks like stage spotlight and a “Wall of Fame”.

How do you measure up?measure2

This display is perfect for the classroom or communal areas to encourage numeracy conversations as well as give pupils more experience of estimating heights. Using a printed ruler (or Ikea paper rulers), pinned at the correct height. Update regularly with the heights and pictures of the latest A-Z list celebrities.

BIDMAS/Countdown Corner

Simple idea, give pupils a target and they have to use the operations to make the target number just like the game show.

Alternatively create a countdown corner. Great for starters, or on-going challenges.

How to Learn Mathsimage

I found this great resource on the TES website here, by Complex_Number. I agree completely that we have to encourage pupils to recognise mistakes as learning opportunities! I printed two copies on two different colours to create two displays for different classrooms by mixing up the colours! Here is one of the displays

Area Perimeter Door


Simply use the classroom  door to remind pupils of the difference between area and perimeter.


Using pre-cut lettering alongside a door or a window to provide this visual of the key terminology.


Suduko Challenge

imageInteractive display, I let pupils complete the suduko. By using PVC electrical tape I have created a damage free display on a painted wall. The tape peels away leaving no marks. You can see the black velcro tabs, these are placed on top of the yellow tape, i.e. damage free walls and a great activity.

The pouch at the bottom holds the remaining cards and a book of suduko’s of varying challenge.

This display is total versatile because it is essential a 9 by 9 grid. Therefore it can also be used when teaching place value, multiplying and dividing by powers of ten, translations, enlargements, coordinates and so much more!

Mathematics Around the World

Create a display by asking pupils to create a Facebook profile for famous mathematicians from around the world and use string to show their country. Thank you to Mrs Walters for this awesome display!

Instant Display Work

barchartPost-it notes and window crayons, rolls of back paper, magic whiteboard and any surface can become a display area.

We have blogged about window crayons before, check out our blog here.

Magic whiteboard, wallpaper rolls also great to create instant display of pupils’ work.


So many great bunting ideas to choose from JustMaths have blogged here about A-Z keyword bunting here. Or Miss Radders discusses how to make bunting from old maths text books here. Also MissBResource’s has an awesome collection of display resources including shape and formulae (by Mr Collins) bunting here.

imageAlternatively make your own like Mr Saunder’s specially requested ‘Maths is Boss’ bunting.

Literacy in Maths Displays

Mrs Rojas shares how she has created her boggle display here and includes free printables. This is my next project which is ideal for the maths classroom too!

Pupils have to make words using the letters on display, award double points for mathematical words. Increase the difficulty by adding the rule that the letters must ‘connect’, vertically, horizontally or diagonally. Using sticky back Velcro again allows the alphabet cards to be changed on a daily basis!image

Key Action Words

In every maths classroom, all the key action words. These are referred to on a daily basis.

Corridor Displays

Elements of Maths: From the awesome Just Maths team find their elements of maths display and resources here. Great for classroom or department display.

Room Numbers: Pimp your room numbers, instead of 5 use operations that give an answer of 5.

Celebration Wall: Celebrate success in using Wall of Fame, in the spotlight!

NumberLoving’s Display Shopping List

Pegs– essential to make your displays interchangeable.

Pre-cut lettering– Widely available on the internet, or if your DT has a laser cutter get them to cut some out! How have I not known about this until now?!

Velcro tabs– these provide another way of keeping your displays adaptable (Suduko or Boggle). Remember stick these on top of PVC electrical tape to avoid damage to walls.

Velcro Wall- Use felt to create a velcro wall, a great idea shared at the recent school Learning Fair by Miss Austin.

Laminator– Essential, means you can keep display for re-use in a year or two or in another classroom.

String or Ribbon– for bunting or clothes line (see great work hangs out here)

Sticky Back Plastic– reinvigorate old filing cabinets or book shelves!

Window Crayons- instant display as pupils complete questions on glass

Thank you for reading NumberLoving!

Tweet us @numberloving

Bells for BIDMAS and More

16 Nov

Hi there! We haven’t blogged in a while as we are busy behind the scenes bringing you some changes to the website and a lot of great new resources, please watch this space!

UntitledBIDMAS Bells

The class is split into eight groups and each group is given a bell. Each bell is numbered, if the answer to the question is the same as their group’s bell they should ring the bell. At first the pupils are likely to be too slow to recognise the tune and therefore you may need to go back the beginning and repeat to here the tune. It is an ideal activity for a short plenary.

In this version of the game the order of the questions is important and should follow the same numbers as the tunes provided on the tun sheet. You set some of the pupils a challenge to come up with questions relevant to the topic studying which give the answers to follow one of the tunes provided with the bells.

This bidmas-bells-twinkle-twinkle resource contains questions which if played in the correct order will play the tune “twinkle twinkle little star”.

Other Ideas

Another adaption would be to group pupils and give each group a bell. All pupils will be given an answer card, and for each answer card there is a question. The order of the questions is again important. Use the interactive display board to pose a question to the class, if pupils have the answer to the question the ring the bell. The trick here is to first make the questions and answers, one for each note of the tune. Then assign each question card to the corresponding bell by numbering the question card. Then group all the cards for each bell, mixing them up so the order isn’t clear.For example if the tune was 1, 2, 2 (the numbers on the bell) a pupil from the group with bell one would need the answer to question 1 and pupils from the group with bell 2 would need the answers to question 2 and 3! This is slightly more complicated to prepare but worth it. My top tip is to label the back of the answer cards with which bell number it belongs to!

They can also add fun to quizzes or team games, not as tuneful but great fun!

About the Bells

The bells are called handbells and are sold in sets.You can buy them from here and many other places, always check that they come with a handy tune sheet.

We hope you find the ideas useful and we would love to hear your feedback on how the ideas work for you. You should also check out our online store NumberLoving online store

Thanks for reading!

Body Surface Area and other fun tasks!

24 Mar


One of my absolute favourite websites for practical lesson ideas is teach maths. It is full of free lesson plans across the whole curriculum, more importantly all of the lessons are hands on and practical. So far I have tried two lessons from this site, both of which have been brilliant!

The first of these is on body-surface area, the plan is available here. Basically students have to calculate the surface area of their body. In order to do this they have to split their body into different shapes (I show them the slide above for inspiration) then they take the necessary measurements to calculate the surface area of each shape. This has a lot of real-life applications, the most interesting being calculating doses for things like chemotherapy. Once they have an answer there is a formula which the medical profession use, they can apply this formula to see how close their estimates are.

The second lesson is on discovering the formulae for the volume of a pyramid, the lesson plan is available here. In this lesson students construct six pyramids which they fit together to make a cube. They can then see that the volume of one pyramid is one sixth of the volume of the cube, a bit of algebra later and hey presto the formula for the volume of a pyramid is discovered!



Both of these lessons have worked really well for me, students have been really engaged and more importantly have been forced to think for themselves. Along with these lessons are many other brilliant ideas which I can’t rate highly enough, well worth a look.

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