Eeek, I’d been all prepared and printed out resources I had thought to share for speed dating at #mathsconf6, only to leave them on the printer at home. So next best thing I could think of was to get hubbie to take a couple of pics, email them to me and post about them on here. 

What I was thinking of sharing was a resources from another maths teacher that I had found extremely useful, and had shared with my department, for tackling problem solving, and the difficulties students have sometimes in getting started on a problem. 

Back in July I read this post from @mrlyonsmaths on his blog about problem solving and the lack of resilience in even starting at solving a problem. Mr Lyons suggestion was inspiring and I’ve used his resource as a basis for problem solving with my groups this year. 

This is Mr Lyons’ problem solving scaffold, with descriptors of each section. He’s generously made it available to use it/tweak as required on his blog, following link above. 

It’s a fab way of getting students started on a problem as to begin with they are rewriting the key points of the question. Highlighting is good when you recognise where you’re going to go next, but for the less confident pupils, thus actually gets them started on writing something, and then some maths just seems to lead on from there. 


These are just three examples of questions I’ve used the format for, for different year groups and abilities of students. 

So a big thank you and shout out to @mrlyonsmaths for giving some of my students an entry way into problem solving. 

We had one of the best, if not The Best department meeting last night. There was one item on the agenda, which lasted for the whole hour: marking for feedback and improvement. And the reason why it was the best was that we spent the hour looking at all sorts of examples of our own practice, identifying the good practice and discussing how we could improve. The collaborative approach meant we could share the difficulties we found, and suggest ways together of overcoming these, so that our feedback became productive for pupils improvement.  The photos shown on here are just mine, but attempt to cover the areas of discussion we had.  I know I haven’t got it right yet, so by the end of the meeting, had an armful of strategies to try.

The school policy is for a comment mark using (what went well, even better if, comment), and in maths the regularity of this is once a fortnight in years 7-9 and once a week in years 10-11.  Assessment feedback is included in the comment marking, and most of our team use home work as a comment mark, with occasional class work being comment marked.  Using home work creates its own issues with pupils not completing it, or handing in late etc, but the focus here is purely on the feedback and improvement.

IMG_5449The biggest thing we noticed was that in a good chunk of the samples, the teacher was working harder than the pupil, or the amount of teacher feedback compared to pupil response.  We were doing our best to give quality feedback, but the resulting effort of the pupil was minimal and meant our feedback wasn’t doing it’s job in helping pupils improve.  So as well as dealing with the pupils’ effort, we went on to discuss methods of giving concise and effective feedback.  We discussed giving target or question codes, and then projecting the questions for each code for the pupils to complete, as suggested by @shaun_allison in his blog classteaching and in his book with @atharby Making Every Lesson Count (great book – I’m really enjoying reading). A second idea was to use @Missbsresources Dirt Bank, and start creating our own to share, where pupils have a guided question, followed by a similar question without scaffold.  Again, these could be projected, or printed out for the pupils. This would also help with the pupils who immediately put up their hand to say they don’t understand, and give some of the responsibility back to them to read through and think about what they are doing.


The quality of the improvement comment by the pupil was discussed. Clearly saying that they were going revise a topic by a certain method does not mean they actually will, so did we follow up?  And then there were the pupils who didn’t even complete the .com (could this have been because they were absent) and how do we follow up with this? It was discussed about training pupils how to use the process, and this must involve both modelling to them and providing examples and good improvement work.


We talked about our assessment feedback sheets, and who should write the http://www.  Normally, the teacher does, but as we give the pupils the question level analysis, should pupils be scrutinising the objectives and picking out what went well themselves, rather than the teacher repeating writing them out.



For home work marking, an idea from a teach meet was to have a printed out list of the objectives you were assessing, and to tick those that went well, again to save the teaching keep writing them out, thus giving more time to focus on the even better if.



There was the question of signposting the .com as well. We do use green pens for this, but there were several examples where it wasn’t clear where the .com was, for example when a green pen hadn’t been used and improvement work was on the initial piece and not underneath.


We looked at examples where improvement work had been highlighted to guide pupils to what they need to improve, with guidance in the ebi. There were also examples where the ebi might just have been a question number, but when you look at that question, further guidance was given at that point, rather than in the official ebi part.

Another part of the discussion we had was when was the best time in the lesson to do the feedback and the .com.  I’ve always done it at the start of the lesson, but it does cause an issue of getting drawn out and having to provide further work for those that complete it, before we’ve even begun the lesson.  The argument for using the start of the lesson is that pupils need the feedback and improvement time before they can move onto the next part of the learning. We have agreed to try the .com at the end of the lesson instead. I’m still getting my head round how this will work with the flow of learning, for example when feeding back on an assessment, I wouldn’t like to start the new topic first, then return to the previous topic to do some improvement work. However, the idea is to improve the focus of the response, and having a limited amount of time should spur pupils on, especially if it is before a break or lunch time!

So we ended up with a list of good practice in an attempt to improve how pupils respond to our feedback. It may seem really obvious to other teachers, but it gives a boundary of consistency across the department:

  • When marking, go back to previous .com to ensure follow-up
  • In ebis, highlight when pupils are being told what to do in their .com e.g. correct Q2 etc.
  • Ensure students signpost in .com when they have done follow-up work elsewhere.
  • Put a selection of questions on board and use a code in pupil’s book so they then complete the correct question in their book.
  • Follow-up questions to complete as part of .com
  • Make sure work is dated (either start of piece of work or in the feedback).
  • Use 10 mins at end of lesson for .coms to increase pace and ensure completion to high enough quality before they pack away.
  • Use mini post-its in books where .coms are not completed so pupils can be kept behind to do so.
  • Give detentions were pupils refuse to complete .coms.

The final #MTBoS blogging challenge is about a lesson taught this week.  I couldn’t decide between two of them, so thought I’d write about both, being two quite contrasting groups.  Firstly,  year 10 (14-15 year olds), who find maths quite challenging and haven’t had much success in their achievement over the years, but are working extremely hard and hopefully becoming more confident, learning about translation and then year 7 (11-12 year olds) learning order of operations, a group full of high achieving pupils.


Both lessons started in exactly the same way, with the brilliant Numeracy Ninjas by @maths_master William Emeny (greatmathsteachingideas). I do some sort mental arithmetic or skills practice at the start of every lesson, as not only does it set the routine for the pupils, it settles them into thinking right from the start of the lesson, and ensures their numeracy skills are regularly practised to support with the fluency when tackling tougher topics. For the year 10s, they are focussing on the first two sections, mental numeracy and timestables, whereas year 7 whizz through these two sections and focus on the key skills section. We then pick out a question that pupils struggled with to review, before launcing into the topic for the lesson.

Year 10 Translation

I knew when planning this lesson that the year 10 group studied translation last year, so they should know what it is.  However, they wouldn’t have used vectors before, so this was the focus of the lesson.


We started with a quick reminder of translation, then headed straight into what a vector was. An explanation from me, some note taking and a few vectors for the pupils to think about what they mean.
imageWe then spent a chunk of time identifying the vectors that would move the points, and then  shapes.
This was whole class questioning, and they weren’t allowed to use the words left, right, up or down, just the two numbers in the vector.  I, of course, threw in a question where there was only movement in one direction, and pupils discussed how they would give the vector for that. Then pupils had their own practice time in their books. As I circulated, I caught a couple of pupils writing their vector as a co-ordinate pair, and we stopped and discussed the different between a co-ordinates being a position and a vector being a movement, and therefore had to be written in the correct notation.

image    image

Once pupils were more secure in their vector writing, they then had a lovely translation activity from @just_maths (as a school we subscribe to Just Maths Online). We discussed the importance of identifying a vertex to complete the translation from, and to check they are completing the translation correctly, they could choose another vertex and repeat the translation.

And that’s it! I don’t really do bells and whistles in my lessons, I just aim to teach the pupils as best I can and give them the time and support to practise and hone their learning. In a few lessons time, we’ll be bringing all the learning on transformation together, where pupils will have to carry out or identify the correct transformation, including combinations.

Year 7 Order of Operations

Before I taught this, I knew that most, if not all, of this group would have been taught  about order of operations at primary school, so this would be a revision and stretch lesson.  I had to ensure they knew and understood the basics, but be ready to give them a bit of a challenge.image

I love foldables as an alternative to note taking, and I have a BIDMAS Foldable I created for this topic. I teach order of operations as BIDMAS, being careful to keep DM and AS on the same level.  The only sticking point was that pupils had been taught BODMAS previously.  We discussed what order and indices mean, and I explained why we use indices at secondary school (in the mathematical vocabularly they are excpected to know).

The skills practise involved 3 levels of questions. Pupils could choose the level to start at, and several went straight for the gold challenge, whereas others wanted a bit of practise on the more straightforward silver questions first.image

The challenge activity was a calculation square from Don Stewards Median website. I really liked this activiy, as it did make the pupils think.  Not only did they have to remember the order of operations, but they had to think about where to start and what each calculation was asking. Pupils who found the gold questions starightforward minutes ago, were feeling quite puzzled about this one.

imageWe finished the lesson with another Don Steward activiy, bracketed, from which I chose 5 equations for the pupils to decide if they were correct, or if they needed brackets in. Although mostly identified correctly, the biggie that came out of this was pupils thinking the 5 x 6 needed brackets in 2 + 5 x 6 = 32.

Unfortunatley I don’t have any photos of these pupil’s work as they have their books for revision!  The powerpoint is attached BIDMAS.

You can probably tell that I have go to places for resources and activities in my lessons. When there is so many quality resources around, thanks to the generosity of so many maths teachers sharing their work, there’s no point reinventing the wheel!  I do plan my lessons thinking of the outcome first, and then looking for activities which will enable this outcome for the pupils.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these lessons.  I’m looking forward to reading and being inspired by others in the #MTBoS challenge who have shared their lessons too.



With week 3 of the #MTBoS blogging challenge we are thinking about questioning.  And this did get me thinking, as verbally I know how I question pupils, but with written questions, whether it is class work, home learning or assessment, I hadn’t reflected much on the process.  Yet as I got thinking about it, I realise I do have my particular ways, developed through experience and doing my best to read around other teacher’s practice and experience, as well as latest education news.betterquestions

Starting with verbal questioning, it’s fairly staright forward to me. I want to find out what pupils know, facts and processes, and why they know that. When working through a problem whole class, I direct questios to pupils, and different pupils will get different questions from me, depending where they are in the learning process. I might ask one pupil a closed question to see whether they can recall certain aspects, whereas another pupil I might want to elicit further understanding from them.  My favourite question is probably “why?”.

Onto classwork, I begin with the objective of the lesson and what I want students to be able to do by the end with their learning. I don’t often make up my own questions – quick practice questions I will do, but the deeper, thoughtful questions I search around my usual haunts until I find the questions which suit. We have electronic text books, so I may select questions from these, or use websites such as Don Steward’s Median, Resourceaholic, Teachitmaths (subscription) or Mathspad (subscription), and not forgetting TES resources.

I also keep in mind the SOLO taxonomy, so that the questions I give the students can develop from single knowledge questions, bringing in extra skills, through to problem solving questions, which may link to other areas of mathPlotting Graphss. Take area of shapes, for example.  Questions would start with practising using the formula to find the area of the shape, then it might be finding a length, given the area, fidning the area of compound shapes, developing through to a problem solving question, which involves other areas of maths, for example fractions.  I use a bronze, silver, gold, platinum system to identify the level of difficulty in the questions.  Bronze would start with the basics we covered in whole class work, and each new section would involve something extra the pupils would have to think about. I often give a minimum number of questions to answer from each section, depending on whether it is a totally new topic to the group or not.  The Plotting graphs example attached starts with the basic y = mx + c graphs that we worked through as a class, and develops into different forms of the equation, where pupils have to think about what the equation is saying.

Measures HLFor home learning, I section my questions into the three areas of the new curriculum, fluency (I call it skills practice on the home learning), reasoning and problem solving.  There are more questions on the fluency section, as a primary focus, but I think it’s important that students are exposed to the reasoning and problem solving questions. My question choices are by no means perfect, and the reasoning and problem solving do cross over, but it’s a starting point I am developing from.  The example is a home learning for Metric and Imperial Measures.  For reasoning questions, one of @mrbartonmaths diagnostic-questions is good for pupils to explain their choice from the multiple answers on offer. These questions are carefully set by Mr Barton to help reveal misconceptions.

Finally, when it comes to assessments, for KS3 (11-13 yr olds), we have bought into a scheme that provides the assessments. With the quick change over of the curriculum, and no permanent head of department, it seemed best to start from something already written, and tweak as we go along.  And oh how I’ve tweaked.  I’m a devil for looking through assessments and thinking, that’s not what I want! I believe our end of unit assessments (a 20-30 minute assessment every 2 weeks), should be assessing what the pupils have learnt.  At a previous #mathsconf, I attended a session on assessment by @kris_boulton, which was very informative, particularly about defining the domain of what your teaching – the assessment should then cover, as much as possible, this domain.  Although teaching should focus on the domain, it isn’t restricted, so can go further.   Assessment goes in the same categorise as the home learning for me, but not explicitly split into sections. There needs to be some knowledge and skills questions, and there also needs to be the questions that use the skills in more implicit ways.

I think I have changed all my spellings of questioning, as I’m very much inclined to put a double n into the word! Please forgive any I missed!



My Favourite

Since the title for this weeks #MTBoS blogging challenge arrived by email, I’ve been thinking really hard about what my favourite things are about teaching. I’ve managed to get it down to four things!

My favourtie

  1. I love looking for, and occasionally creating, resources for my students to use that helps their understanding or learning of maths. There’s so many creative activities around on the Internet, that many generous teachers have created and shared, and I must admit it gives me a little buzz when I find something that just seems perfect for what I’m going to be teaching.  My first stop is always resourceaholic, which then often leads me on to the quality resources on Don Steward’s Median and mathspad. I have a particular penchant for foldables for organising knowledge, after being introduced to them through the blogs of mathequalslove and rundesroom.
  2. There’s been a couple of moments this week that reminded me how much I love the positive interactions we have with our students. I do need reminders as its all too easy to get bogged down in the difficult behaviour and negativities, so let me share what happened this week. A lively, chatty year 7 group who I want to keep on track with being focussed on their maths. We have a 3 step sanctions system in the classroom – verbal warning, written warning, detention. I gave one girl a verbal warning (and although verbal, we write it on the board) and my pen didn’t work very well. So she silently got a whiteboard pen out of the box on her desk and passed it to me, so I could write her name on the board. Whilst currently experiencing much challenge from several groups of pupils, this gesture really made me smile! The next day I was teaching my lovely year 10 group, last lesson of the day, and the hour just flew by as we learned and chatted together. I’m so proud of how well they’re doing!
  3. I’m not sure I should admit to this one, but here goes nothing – I actually love marking! Not so much the writing of the comments and all that, but looking through either the pupils work or assessments and seeing what they’ve learnt and been able to put into practice. I have little internal celebrations when a pupil has done something really well, or shown real understanding, or thought of a way to solve something that I hadn’t thought of. I do get the “oh dear” moments as well, but this makes it easy for me to know what to do next with the pupils.
  4. And finally I can’t write about my favourite things without mentioning stationery. I love stationery. Enough said!

A day in the life

In an attempt to get myself blogging more regularly, I decided to join the #MTBoS blogging initiative, so here is my first entry, a day in the life. I thought I’d choose Tuesday of this week, as it was a full day of teaching, followed by parents evening, but as it happens, there was to be a twist in the tale.


7.15: Today my husband was able to take the boys to the childminder, so I can head straight to school, arriving at 7.50. Before school time was devoted to marking my year 10 assessments. There were only 10 of them, so I knew I had time, and was even able to set up the tracking spreadsheet, as well as getting all my resources in order for the day ahead.

8.35: Department briefing, which I came out of with quite a to do list! School starts at 8.50 and I was straight to assembly with my year 9 form. This weeks theme is setting high expectations.

9.10: The teaching starts with yr 12 maths resit group. Just had 7 pass their November resit, so the class had shrunk a little, and with mocks going on, there were even less! Started as I always do with a corbettmaths 5aday, then it was working through a past paper as they have their mock at the end of the week. Saw an email that the head had to cancel all her praise appointments with pupils….

10.10: Guidance with my form. We were looking at Businesses today. A split lesson, so half an hour of Guidance, then half hour break, before the second half hour of Guidance. Had good discussions around a Dragons Den clip, and which offer was the best. Saw an email that there was a full staff briefing at 3.20pm.

11.40: My beautiful top set year 7. A group full of high ability pupils, who love learning. Spent some improvement time on their home learning and previous class work, then it was into learning how to plot a graph from its equation.

12.40: Year 11 GCSE foundation group. These are a hard bunch of kids. Most haven’t got much motivation and very little belief in themselves. They were calculating circumference of a circle, and could do it, but were struggling to settle down and focus just on their work.

13.40: A half hour break for lunch, in which I printed out my data sheets for parents evening, then onto the last lesson. Another year 7 group, set 2 (out of 3). Again, started with some improve my work in their home learning, then was finishing their first algebra topic on formula – writing and substituting into. A lively bunch, who are on the whole quite keen, but chatty too.

15.10: The teaching day finished and time to head for a staff meeting. You may have guessed by now that the head had received the OFSTED phone call in the morning, and they would be arriving the next morning. Our school is currently requires improvement and everyone had been working really hard to improve. We knew they’d be coming soon, so not unexpected, but not great timing with most teachers about to head into the hall for 2 1/2 hours to meet with year 8 parents. I make a phone call to my husband to see if there’s any chance he can take the boys to the childminders again in the morning so I can head straight into school.

16.00: Parents evening starts and it’s busy to begin with. Have lots of positive things to say to most parents. It gets a bit quieter towards the end, and although my last 20 minutes weren’t booked, I stay until the end as I really wanted to see those 2 parents who hadn’t turned up earlier, and am just hoping they were late.

18.30: They didn’t turn up, so I head back to my classroom to start preparing for the next day. Most of my lessons are planned, but I had some assessments for yr 11s to file in their folders, which now really need to be in there before tomorrow’s lesson. Those other little tidying jobs on my list couldn’t wait now either.

19.30 I finally leave school, seeing several classroom lights still on as I head for home. It’s not that we want to be different for OFSTED, but know everything must be at the best of what we do, something that would be impossible to do all the time, although it always what we strive for.

21.00: I’ve been home half an hour. Boys were in bed, and my husband has made tea. I’ve had a sit down, refuelled, and it’s back to work. I knew I had my feedback lesson to prepare for year 10s, but with our visitors now coming, I also had to change my planned year 7 lesson from a basic skills fortnightly lesson to a normal curriculum lesson, my seating plans to update and print out in case they were needed, the Teacher Toolkit 5 minute lesson plans to fill in – this wasn’t too hard as I plan in my head using these – and a couple of tweaks to my yr 11 and yr 8 lessons.

00.30: I fall into bed knowing the alarm is going off in little over 5 hours. I wouldn’t normally stay up that late working, but I want to do my best for my school over the next two days. We work extremely hard to do our best for our pupils and I want OFSTED to see that.



2015 was an interesting year professionally, but as always, it is only possible to grow in and enjoy my school work with the support of family and friends, so that is where I will start.


1) Both my parents have suffered through cancer this year, and have fought positively against it. My dad was lucky to have a tumour whipped out, and a month later you wouldn’t have known anything had been wrong. My mum had treatment for breast cancer over the year, and finished the year having her long waited for hip replacement.  Through all this, they have both supported me and my boys incredibly, readily volunteering to do extra looking after so I can attend meetings, conferences, teachmeets and Christmaths! My husband puts up with me saying I want to go here or there for maths teacher meets, whilst he’s busy working somewhere across the country. I am just as lucky to have parents-in-law and friends I can call upon to help.  That morning when my car wouldn’t start and I had a friend from school come over to pick me up after walking the boys round to a friend’s house to take them to school, all on a moments notice.  For everything I accomplish professionally, I know I have an incredible group of family and friends with me in my life.

2) School life seems to have changed rapidly for me this year, mostly due to the confidence I have developed in what I do. I’ve always questioned myself, and am sure I always will, but 2015 has seen me believe that I can be good at what I do! I mentored an ITT student for the first time, which was fantastic to be able to support someone through their early development towards QTS, and now I am being recommended as someone for NQTs to come in and observe to support them in aspects of their teaching. I love this, as I think it’s so important to share practice with each other, as a classroom can be an isolating place to be. The best part is sitting and chatting through strategies and experiences, and I always take away something to help me too out of these sessions.

3) There has been change in our department during 2015, which can be quite nerve wracking in not knowing what to expect. My job share partner left, but my old head of department, Faye, came back off maternity leave so I was so excited to be able to job share with her. Without Faye I would not have been given then opportunity to start my NQT year 7 years ago (long story!), and she definitely saw me through the lowest moments when I didn’t think I’d make it. She has become a special friend, so I was gutted, but very pleased for her, when she also decided to leave at Christmas.  I haven’t met my new job share partner yet, something to look forward to next week.  We also had a new head of department from September, a change filled with anticipation for a new start for the department, but also the anxiousness in what changes might be brought to a supportive team.  I need not have had any anxiety as our team continues to flourish together under our new leadership, with new life and guidance being injected into our practice.

4) I’ve obviously started dabbling a bit more in the blogging and twitter communities, which has opened a new lease of passion within me for my subject and profession. Having chance to read about other teachers experiences and practices is having a profound affect on my own practice, and the generosity in the sharing of research, and particularly resources (to which I think when on earth do these fellow teachers get the time to prepare all of this), is awesome. With visits to conferences, I have also had the opportunity to meet some of these amazing sharing tweachers (and yes, you are amazing in what you do and share), which only inspires me more to be better at what I do.


1) Starting in the same place, my first hope is to improve my work/life balance.  I want to do more with my maths and teaching, but I need to work smarter. I’m so keen to provide the best learning experiences in the classroom, that I use most of my 2 days off (being  3-day part timer) preparing lessons.  I wouldn’t be able to spend this much time in preparation if I was full time, so I need to do better.  This does not mean I want to change what I give to my teaching, but to work smarter at preparing. The idea of being part time is to keep the weekends free for my family, but so oftern I’m spending a Sunday afternoon, running into the evening, getting lessons and resources finished off and ready to use. In 2016, I hope to keep to the weekend is for the family, and spend some of my 2 days off on revitalising myself!  A toughie for me, but more than worthwhile.

2) This academic year I was enrolled in the Middle Leaders Programme run by our local schools consortium.  I’ve started to find this a little overwhelming, but totally fulfilling and quite am enjoying the new experiences. During 2016, I have my school wide leadership project to complete, hard work in itself, and then present my work and experiences to the leadership team.  This programme has given me the confidence to think of where I may head next in my career, so I am now thinking about looking for lead practitioners roles in the future.  I’ve also not had the opportunity to teach A’Level and do feel at best rusty, but at worse, unworthy, when A’Level maths is discussed.  So this year I hope to brush up on my A’Level knowledge and skills, and particularly take any opportunity with the introduction of mechanics teaching at our school.

3) Change is always just around the corner, and I look forward to the gradual changes being made in our department to make us better teachers, and to help us guide our students into being better learners. But this year, change is huge with the new GCSE, grading and assessment systems. Our department were criticised last term in the lack of levels attached to pupils work in their books, with the point that without the levels we weren’t showing progress. I’m pleased to say that as a department we agreed we stil wouldn’t give pieces of work a level, but without whole school guidance on assessment without levels, we are having to use our own system, taken from the scheme of learning and assessment resources we are using for KS3. I find this lack of whole school thinking difficult, but do hope our leadership team are getting it all sorted in the background ready to surprise us in the New Year. Similarly, the insistence on giving a grade to our year 10s is troubling me.  We have to report working at grades four times a year, but without the knowledge of the grading of the new GCSEs, I can’t help but worry I’m picking a number out of thin air.

4) I do hope to blog and tweet a bit more this year, and contribute more to a community that has provided me with so much inspiration, information and resource. I know that many of my resources I use with my students are taken from the generous folk that share on TES, or their own blogs, and then used as is, or adapted to suit my students. I need to start sharing more, making sure that I’m sharing my resources I’ve created, rather than keeping them on my own hard drive! For resources I’ve used and/or adapted, I’m trying to ensure I save the originator in my file names, so I remember where it came from and can link accordingly to the orginal sites if I blog about how well it worked with the students.

Well, thats my nurture1516 done! The process of writing has been very cathartic and I now have my 2016 hopes in black and white, rather than a swirl of thoughts in my head. Will press publish and look forward to another year of hard work and continued improvement in all I do!