First half term as an NQT completed…

… And hasn’t it been tough?! An ‘interesting’ start to the year resulted in a number of timetabling (and therefore class) changes, which meant having to go through the introductory stage with classes again after two weeks! I have enjoyed experimenting with a number of ideas and resources I have seen this half term, and the idea of this post is to document some of these, much like my previous post ‘First two weeks as an NQT’. I shall try to ensure that these ideas are ‘new’ and that I am not repeating things which are mentioned there!

First off I want to talk about marking. Whilst I have by no means found the ‘best’ approach to marking, this sticker shared by a member of my department has helped me to share feedback clearly with students. What I really like about it is not only the ‘RAG’ style effort rating bar, but that you can invite students or peers to assess work in their books using the sticker. I am still looking for effective marking methods, so please share your strategies with me!

We have used the diagnostic questions website (@MathsDQs) this half term with year 7 to assist with placing them into ‘appropriate’ sets after half term. These were an excellent resource and I would recommend use of the website across key stages. I imagine the GCSE collections would be invaluable to assist students and teachers in becoming (more) aware of what areas still need to be addressed, and where misconceptions are most often occuring. There is also a collection focusing on the new AQA specification which would also be of benefit.

Due to our mixed ability year 7 classes there were a few occasions when the work was not sufficiently challenging for some pupils. To tackle this I looked at the ‘My Classroom’ post from @solvemymaths which I mentioned in a previous post. I had recalled seeing a section called ‘extension activities’, and when reviewing the post I found the link to resources from mathschallenge. The questions are excellent and challenging, so I printed some of these out which solved the problem of not always having sufficient material to occupy students in the lessons!

With KS5 I have been making use of MEI’s integral maths on a regular basis as well as looking at Jo Morgan’s (@mathsjem) bank of resources on resoureaholic. I am awaiting word on login details for CMEP having seen a selection of these resources at an FMSP development session at UCL earlier in October. I have also started blogging for my KS5 students (see ‘Blogging for KS5’ post) after each lesson, providing them with access to the lesson resources and some additional follow up material. After half term I am beginning a KS5 enrichment club which is starting off as training for the senior maths challenge hosted by the FMSP before developing into a less specific enrichment club. I hope to continue improving where I go to find resources so as to provide my sixth formers with engaging lessons and encourage them to see the real beauty and excitement of mathematics.

Another thing I saw via Jo Morgan is the website Create A Test (@createatest). I consequently took a look and on finding it to be free, signed the school up. It is an outstanding resource for producing assessments and exam style questions with the ability to generate variations of one particular type of question. I really like the website and have already begun to encourage other members of my department to take a look and make use of this FREE resource.

Monday 19th October saw the second maths journal club discussion on Twitter (@mathjournalclub/#mathsjournalclub). This was a nice ‘break’ from teaching, diving back into the research and taking part in an interesting discussion. This focused on Colin Foster’s paper “Mathematical études: embedding opportunities for developing procedural fluency within rich mathematical contexts”. There were a number of great ideas in the paper which I hope to now implement in my future teaching. Check out the storify of the discussion put together by host Tom Bennsion (@DrBennison) here. Also, next discussion is on Monday 7th December!

I am still developing my bank of resources and ideas and the maths education Twittersphere has been one of the effective places for me to do this. Thank you to everyone who freely shares their teaching ideas and resources, so many of us appreciate your hard work!

Chalkdust magazine

I visited UCL for a training course last week and I took the opportunity to catch up with the Chalkdust team, acquiring some copies of their magazine. This is a reasonably new ‘mathsy’ magazine which is being published by students in the mathematics department at UCL.

I’ve not had a proper chance to look thoroughly through it yet, but it looks both professional and full of exciting maths! Congratulations go to the Chalkdust team!

You can view an online version of the magazine in this link if you are interested!

Blogging for KS5

I set up a blog for my KS5 students a couple of weeks ago as a way of providing them with a reference for covered lesson content and extra resources (it also saves me some printing credit too!).

The posts have so far included all the resources used during the lesson (i.e. presentations, PDF of interactive whiteboard teachings, activities, etc.) along with a ‘run down’ of what has happened during the lesson. This provides an opportunity to remind students of how we overcame some misconceptions that may have been raised during the lesson. At the end I have included a homework/private study reminder (with links to worksheets when appropriate) and then some ‘follow up material’. This has generally been extra material such as links to revision videos, extra worksheets and the occasional STEP or UKMT question. Some students have really appreciated this opportunity to ‘stretch’ their knowledge.

This felt like a really good idea at the time and it has been well received by my students so far! I keep plugging it in lessons to ensure that they are all visiting the blog and using it to help with their studies. I hope to include some more posts when I start my KS5 enrichment club after half term as well!

Youcubed Week of Inspirational Math(s)

Since our year 7 classes are being taught in tutor groups until half term our department has been looking at finding good mixed ability lessons. We came across Jo Boaler’s (@JoBoaler) Week of Inspirational Math from the Youcubed website which has lots of tasks and resources relating to growth mindset and encouraging everyone to try their best in maths lessons.

This ‘Week of Inspirational Math’ consists of five lessons (and lesson plans) based on both thinking and group work tasks. Here I include a brief summary of the tasks involved.

The first lesson challenges pupils to share their ideas about what good and bad mathematical group work looks like before then tackling the four four’s problem (finding numbers 1-20 using four four’s only). Lesson two is called ‘number visuals’ and asks pupils to look for, share and discuss patterns in the visualised numbers provided. The third lesson encourages pupils to challenge each other through questioning and tries to help them develop their explanations and justifications. In the fourth lesson pupils are invited to look at Pascal’s triangle (with gaps) and to try and work out what is going on. They are also then expected to try and identify other patterns in the triangle. During the fifth and final lesson of the ‘week’ pupils must first think about what they see happening with the growth of a certain shape structure before then discussing ideas in their groups and then attempting to create generalisations.

I have done up to the third lesson with my year 7 classes so far, and the ‘number visuals’ lesson was particularly successful with many students coming to the front and explaining the patterns they had noticed (primes in circles, times tables, factors, etc.). These lessons seem to have been really engaging for the groups of student so far and all have been able to access it, as well as challenge themselves mathematically.

It has certainly been challenging, teaching mixed groupings, but it has also been really enjoyable to be able to support students in the same class with different aspects of the same problem.

Whilst I have used this with year 7 it is suggested on the lesson plans that it could be used right through to with year 10 groups and I can imagine it would be quite interesting to do that!