The NQT year is almost over…

It has been an interesting first year in teaching to say the least. Aside from development in school I have particularly enjoyed engaging with the Twitter community in the sharing of ideas and resources, as well as getting involved with chats and attending CPD events. I have also had the privilege to be involved with the mathematics magazine, Chalkdust.  In this post I hope to document some of the things I have made use of or got involved with during this year.

One of the first Twitter chats I was able to get involved with was #mathsjournalclub which is hosted by Tom Bennison. A new chat which also started last year, the discussions have a mathematics education research paper as the focus, though discussions have also developed around ideas and suggestions which are raised during the chat. Past discussions can be found on Tom’s Storify page. The sixth chat is up for voting until the 9th June here and will take place on Monday 11th July at 8pm. If you don’t already take part, the discussions have all been very interesting and it would be great if you got involved!

I have also tried to get involved with the weekly #mathscpdchat and #mathschat discussions and have had the pleasure of hosting two #mathscpdchat discussions this year (Wild Maths and Marking at A-level). These discussions always have an interesting topic of focus with lots of fruitful discussions. Following a break for half term both of the discussions should be very exciting next week with a special #mathschat webinar and #mathscpdchat focusing on working collaboratively on teaching, learning and assessing mathematics.

I have attended ChristMaths and MathsMeet Glyn (organised by Jo Morgan), MathsConf6 (La Salle Education) and Maths in the Sticks (organised by Stuart Price). All of these event provided excellent presentations and provided me with lots of things to take away and think about. My next planned event is Tom Bennison‘s East Midlands KS5 Mathematics Conference which already has an excellent line up! I would highly recommend getting along to any good CPD event, especially when they are free!

I now frequent many maths teaching resource websites. For A level I tend to find myself looking for something on Integral Maths. For homework, Jo Morgan and Kathryn Forster’s Pret Homework website provides quality and worthwhile worksheets designed by teachers. In addition Jo Morgan’s Resourceaholic website provides access to some outstanding resources which can be used from KS3 to KS5.

I have without a doubt used an extensive list of other resources, however these have been of particular help when struggling to find something good to incorporate into a lesson.

I will be returning to my second PGCE placement school for my second year of teaching and I am looking forward to a change in dynamic and continuing to make use of the outstanding resources that have been made available by fellow mathematics teachers.

3D display with year 8

As we came to the end of the first half term of 2016, my year 8 classes were about to conclude their learning of the shape topic being covered in the department scheme of work. This meant briefly looking at properties of 3D shapes. In a maths Twitter lesson planning (#mathsTLP) session I asked what I might be able to do.

Mr Mattock suggested his jigsaw on Euler’s rule which, whilst I didn’t use it this time, I’m sure will come of use in the future.

It was suggested that I should get the students to make the shapes. Sharon Derbyshire then recommended her post about work with 3D shapes which used to facilitate this.

Using the idea of sweets and cocktail sticks my students completed a number of ‘which shape am I’ tasks to construct various 3D shapes. These then formed my classroom display as Sharon suggested!!

Quick post: Plickers cards

This week I brought Plickers cards back into the classroom. Admittedly only for a test run with my two year 7 classes, though I am excited at the prospect of including these in my lesson planning again.

A quality (free) resource for completing multiple choice quizzes, the Plickers cards provide anonymity to the pupils answers which allows you to gauge whether pupils really have ‘got’ something if you are presenting them with hinge point questions. I used these a lot during the second placement on my PGCE as I learnt more about hinge point questioning in the FutureLearn course ‘Assessment for Learning in STEM teaching‘.

I am looking forward to using them more effectively, allowing the pupil responses to help me determine how I proceed with the remainder of the lesson.

‘Evaluating probability statements’ Standards Unit task (S2) with year 8

Having moved on to the topic of probability with my year 8 classes this term I was reminded of my final university tutor observation of a year 8 probability lesson last year, which happened to be one of my better lessons during my PGCE. I had decided to ‘be daring’ and conducted the ‘Evaluating probability statements’ Standards Unit task (link courtesy of @mrbartonmaths) with the class. The feedback was good and I was able to get really fruitful discussions from the class.

The structure I re-used with my two year 8 classes last week, with some tweaks, which resulted in both classes being more engaged with mathematics and ‘real’ mathematical discussion than before!

The task encouraged students to, in pairs, discuss the validity of a number of probability statements. They were asked to ensure that following their discussions they wrote down their thinking in order to refer to it in a later whole class discussion. Some students found some statements difficult to interpret and these were left until the end where pairs were able to join together into a small group to discuss the leftover statements.

After the discussions I wanted to have some class feedback. Using iDoceo’s random student picker I was able to select a student to chose a statement and explain their reasoning as to why they had decided that it was true or false. This then allowed the opportunity to open up a discussion with the class as in many cases there was conflicting opinions or reasons behind pupil answers. It really helped to meet the task’s criteria of clarifying the misconceptions in the statements, and for almost every statement I was able to take a ‘back seat’ listening to my students argue their points and eventually reach an agreed conclusion through their discussion.

The Standards Unit tasks are probably some of the best classroom activities I have come across. They are challenging, promote mathematical thinking and engage all learners in the task. In addition to this they all contain a preamble with a suggested approach to the task which has been helpful on many occasions. If you haven’t used them yet, you should consider it!

You can find all of the Standards Unit tasks on mrbartonmaths.com.

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!

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!