Tag Archives: mathematics

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!

Witches Brew, Ratio, Proportioning and Costings

5 Oct

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!

Another of our Mathematical Halloween themed activities is using ratio and proportion to make witches brew.

The Brew

Download the recipe sheet I used with a low ability year 7 group from here, our Number Loving resource site.

I renamed some basic ingredients to make them more disgusting sounding! Stagnant pond water = lemonade, pumpkin puree = orange juice, pink poison = cranberry juice, dash of blood = grenadine.

Any non-alcoholic recipe can easily be used as a witches brew, make it more ghastly by adding jelly snakes, eyes or other gruesome sweets available at this time of year! Check out this post by Emma Salk for non-alcoholic cocktail recipes.

The Lesson

Download this PowerPoint, ideal for low ability year 7 pupils, which recaps finding halves, doubles and thirds of amounts. Following which pupils then make the cocktail, using the recipe sheet (above) to find the measurements for one drink and then use this costing sheet to work out batch costs.

These resources were designed for low ability pupils, they can easily be differentiated by requiring students to work with more complex ratios, or requiring more precise measurement.

Numeracy Accross the Curricular Links

Many links with the food technology department, adapting recipes and using the measuring jugs!

Further Ideas

Why not dress up and make an event of it by also making the pop-up 3D spiders (our next blog post soon to come)!

This idea can easily be adapted for Hawaiian themed beach party if you study ratio and proportion in the summer time. Check out the crazy cocktail resources, also available for free download from Number Loving’s resource site.

We hope you like our ideas and would love to hear how they went in your school!

Mathematical Whodunit?

30 Sep

Halloween is such a fun time of year and it’s great to try and bring some of that excitement into your classroom, I’ve never found a really good Halloween themed resource so at Number-Loving we set about trying to make some!

To kick things off we have a Mathematical Whodunit, this is born out of my love (and unbeaten record) of the board game Cluedo (To download go to numberloving.co.uk and click on ‘featured resources’).

The setting is the hotel ‘Spooksville’, the victim is the elusive ‘Mr Black’ and there are six suspects.

The idea is that students work in groups of 5-7, each assuming the identity of one of the characters. They each get a character card which gives them answers to three questions. On their turn they can ask a fellow player one of these question. There’s also a pool of general evidence for students to look at to help them in determining who the murderer is.

The task is quite complex so depending on the class you may need to structure it for them – e.g. tell them for the first 10 minutes they have to find out about the crime itself, then for the next ten they have to find out who had a motive, then who had the means and finally who had opportunity. But if your class are quite used to mysteries and open tasks then you can probably just leave them to it! The Maths is mostly functional and includes:

  • Interpreting time in 12 hour and 24 hour
  • Maps and scales
  • Speed, distance and time
  • Reading timetables and mileage charts
  • Reading bank statements
  • Applying logic and working methodically

In the resource I have summarised a few alternative ways to play – one idea being to get members of the department dressed up as the characters and play the game at an open evening or collapsed timetable day.

I haven’t used this with a class yet – I’m going to save it for my last lesson before Halloween, if anyone does use it I’d love to hear how it goes. You can tweet us @laurareeshughes and @numberloving. We will be adding more Halloween themed resources to our ‘featured resources’ on numberloving.co.uk so keep checking back if you like it!

Mathematical Taboo!

17 Sep

We have been a bit quiet on the blog since the Summer but we’re now back with lots in store for the new academic year!

To kick things off how about a game of taboo? Taboo is a really simple, fun and occasionally frustrating game where you have to describe a word to your partner without using the three ‘taboo’ words. These are an amazing way of consolidating key words and concepts as well as promoting communication and team work!


This works well if students work in fours and  split into two teams of two. Team one have say, two minutes to get through as many words as they can with one member describing and one person guessing. Whilst this is happening team two are timing them and keeping a close eye on the ‘taboo’ words to make sure they are not used. Once the time is up the teams swap over.

In the style of many of our resources these cards are differentiated. Each set comes with 8 green and 8 red cards. The words are taken from the key vocabulary in the national strategy, the red cards are words from year 7 and 8, the green cards are words from year 9. Students could split the cards into two piles and pick which one to play with or you could direct them, I often suggest they get 2 points for a green word and 1 point for a red word. So far we have 6 sets on Number Loving covering key topics.

Variations on the game

Once a word has been guessed additional points can be gained by guessing what the ‘taboo’ words are on the card

Students get blank versions and make their own with the key words from a specific topic or unit

How to download

We have just introduced a ‘featured resource’ section to the Number Loving resource site. Using this we will highlight our new or favourite resources. These taboo cards are currently downloadable from this part of our website – just click on the graphic. Next month we will be featuring all our Halloween resources – some old and some new so keep an eye out!

Summer Projects

29 Jul

Summer is here and now we can get stuck into those projects requiring a little more time. Here we have listed a wide range of projects that will keep you busy over the summer holidays.

Get Making

Maths Dance Mats

Make a class set for use on any topic with numerical answers. Check out our post “Dance Maths” for details on making the mats and resources to use with the mats are also available.

Instant Pie Charts

These have so many uses from the teaching of pie charts itself to its use in group tasks to rate participation rates of individuals, to measuring a pupils understanding. Easily made using four different colours of paper, and slotted together. Check out our post “Instant Graphs” for further details on making and using the pie chart wheels, as well as free resources to make and use with the wheels.

How do you Measure Up? Display

Make or update your height measuring display in your classroom, and why not post around the school in communal areas and even the staff room. Update with winners from the Olympics, or today’s favourite celebrities.

Check out our post “Pimp your classroom” for our free tape measure and other ideas to jazz up your classroom for September.

Top Trumps

Print and laminate a few sets of top trumps, a wide range is available on our resource site http://www.numberloving.co.uk. Each set is differentiated red (easy), amber and green. We have found they last longer if cut out and then laminated. Well worth it!

Check out our post “Maths Top Trumps & Other Games”, with details of how pupils can play the game and links to all top trump resources.


Tarsia Software

Tarsia jigsaw and dominoes software is great and as many colleagues have shared their jigsaws on the TES resource site or here on Mr Barton’s site, if you haven’t yet made use of it now is the time!

Check out our post “Tarsia puzzles- things you didn’t know” for more ideas on how to use the software to its full potential.


Free webbased graphing software and much much more. Download to your desktop now here, offline installation also available.

Prezi Desktop

The zooming presentation software. Check out our post “Get onto Prezi.com. Present & Collaborate”, with links to some of our own presentations. Ideal software for wowing everyone at the September inset day!

Sign up for


Wallwisher can be used as your very own internet based notice board, use effectively with class investigations. As pupils complete investigations they post their findings onto the wall. Sign up for this free posting wall here. Check out our post “Computer room lessons sorted- no mymaths required” for more online tools we recommend.

NRich Postcards

Nrich offer a service to provide postcards for free, each postcard includes a puzzle to solve, just sign up here stating how many of each you would like to receive. These are great for leaving in communal areas around the school, or use as praise postcards home.

BP trading game

Access and download the free BP educational resource, game is available at two levels of difficulty. Pupils trade in oil, making decisions based on news updates. Check out our post “BP Trading Game- Enterprise/STEM/Maths”, here you will find our adapted resources to use with the game.



Hammer beads

These can be bought from most toy stores, we found Ikea’s to be a bargain at £5 see here. Check out our post “Hammer Beads & Symmetry”, where we use these beads to create symmetrical patterns. Use as an end of topic activity or great for open evenings.

Finger Puppets

Another investment from Ikea, a pack of 10 for £4, check out here. Check out our post “Puppets go the distance with speed & time” , here we describe using the puppets to create stories to match a given distance/time graph.

Rulers (& pencils)

Whilst at Ikea take advantage of their free rulers and grab yourself a set. Check out our post “Teaching Loci”, here we describe guiding pupils under given rules of loci and a paper ruler to create locus of points.

Window crayons

We  love using our windows for displays, puzzles, assessment for learning and found window crayons to be the best tools for the job. Check out our post “Who wants clean windows” for further details, get creative!


Avoid sweet treats and instead reward pupils with mathematical based puzzle such as these Rubik cube key rings. Check out our post “On our best Behaviour” for other ideas for rewards.

Geek glasses

Essential for when you promote pupils to be experts, either they finish and become markers  or are already designated as examiners with a given mark scheme (or self created markscheme). I use cinema 3D glasses with the lenses popped out, also great for control pupil movement in class when running  a treasure hunt with a lively group. Pupils can only be out of their seat if they have the glasses on, limiting movement as each group only have one pair of glasses.

Clock for classroom

Every classroom needs one, a mathematical clock like this equation clock. There are also a number of variations available. Check out our post “Equation clocks and more”.

Post It Notes

Well worth the investment, reasonably priced from most stationary stores. Check out our post “Post-it Addict” jam packed of different uses for post-it notes in lessons!

For more ideas check out our posts on Outdoor Learning and see if these fit into your department calendar.
Have a great summer!

Number loving out and about

21 Jul

Thanks to @steelemaths @ThisisLiamM, @InteractMaths, @jonsmcest and @jlc1602 for kindly sharing some pictures of their students using our ideas and resources. Number Loving out and about…

Balloon modelling with fractions from our maths party blog

Cocktails using ratio and proportion from our crazy cocktails blog

Jubilee themed mysteries from our jubilee blog

 Home-made dance mats from our dance maths blog

Calculator racing from @numberloving on twitter

A brilliant mystery inspired by our post Mystery and Mathematics

 (download the full resource on the TES here)

Thank you to everyone who’s tried our ideas, if you have any pictures we would love to see them, tweet us @laurareeshughes and @numberloving. Keep posted as we’ll shortly be blogging about some projects to keep you busy this summer!

End of term resources

3 Jul

The summer holidays are almost upon us so here are some of our top resources and activities to see you through until the end of term. Have a great summer holiday from Number Loving!

Olympic themed resources

If you are after an Olympic themed lesson then try out our Olympic top trumps (download here) and Olympic mysteries (download here). With four mysteries to pick from and the solutions included there should be something for most abilities.

Also Kentishman has shared a wide variety of good quality Olympic themed starters which are well worth a look.

Other bits and bobs

Craig Barton has put together a collection of the top ten end of term resources available on the TES (try saying that quickly!) have a look here for some great ideas.

One of the best end of term games I have come across is Paul Collins’ Pirate game which is available on the TES here. Basically students place money and other symbols in a 7×7 grid, as you call out the grid references they get whatever they had placed in that square. With symbols such as the ‘steal’ which allows them to steal another persons money and the skull and crossbones which lets them wipe out a whole rows scores this is a very lively game which the students will love. I plan on putting a bit more Maths in (for example a ‘squared’ square which lets them square their total).

I discovered these blank Facebook profiles on the TES a while ago and was thinking of a way to use them. I plan on giving students a famous Mathematician and getting them to research this person in order to fill in their Facebook profile. Printed A3 and laminated they should make for an interesting display. I adapted the one off the TES slightly you can download it here.

This week I am doing a ‘sign post project’ with my Year 7’s to consolidate the work we did on measures and conversions. I wanted to put some sign posts up around the school with the distances to different places on, e.g. Science block 30m, Manchester  150 miles. So I decided to get the students to make them. I have split the class into groups and have given each group a different location within the school where their sign post will go. They’ve had to work out the distance from this place to other locations within the school and further afield, then convert their measures so they were all in m, km and miles. They’ve used trundle wheels and tape measures in the school and Google earth for the others. Here’s the PowerPoint I used with a bit more info on.

I often use my CSI mysteries towards the end of term for a fun lesson which still involves a lot of maths. See the collection on the TES here.

I’ll also be using Hama beads and this Cocktails project which I have blogged about previously. If we get any nice weather the cocktails go down really well!

If you use any of the ideas we would love to hear about it, tweet us @laurareeshughes and @numberloving.

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