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!

It’s been a pretty full on term so far, as it always seems to be, so it was lovely to have a break yesterday evening and do some maths for ourselves! We were fortunate enough to welcome Trevor Starbuck to the first Birmingham and Solihull Further Maths Support Programme network meeting hosted at John Willmott School. The intention of these network meetings is to bring together teachers from across the city who have an interest in meeting with other teachers to explore issues relating to the teaching and learning of mathematics and further mathematics at A Level.

Trevor had spent part of the afternoon talking with some of the higher achieving Year 11s, and then turned his attention after school to a small but very enthusiastic group of willing maths teachers. Not having had the privilege of teaching A Level, and still holding a passion for all the mechanics modules I chose at Uni oh so many years ago, I was really looking forward to this session.

The classroom we were meeting in had been transformed into a den of mechanics experiments. Trevor’s enthusiasm for the subject was radiating from him as he introduced the two experiments we were to undertake. These involved, amongst other things, half pipes, marbles, clamp stands, metre rulers and timers.

The curve shows a quadratic relationship between the distance and the time.

The curve shows a quadratic relationship between the distance and the time.

Firstly, there was timing a marble rolling some given distances. The metre long pipe, marked into 20cm segments, was kept as shallow as possible for the marble to roll. It was then timed 3 times each for rolling each distance from 20cm to 1m and the mean value taken. Results plugged into Autograph and the following graph was produced:

The second experiment involved the the rolling of a marble across a tilted table. Our job was to track its path as accurately as we could, to gather data on its path, distance and time. image  We first set the pipe and clamp stand so the marble could travel a decent path up and across the tilted table. Next was to identify the end point of the path, which crated the x-axis.  This path was timed (at least 5 times, and a mean value taken) and the axis was then split into 8 equal parts.  Rolling the marble as consistently as possible, we tracked when it passed each division (again, 5 times for each, taking the median of the points we had plotted on the division lines).


We ended up, as you would expect, with a lovely parabola. The final two measurements to take were the height of the middle division – the point where the marble started its downward journey, and, using a bit of trigonometry, the degree of inclination of the table.image

These experiments were reminiscent of those undertook by Galileo in the late 16th Century.  Ofcourse, he didn’t have electronic timers, so we were quite relieved when Trevor didn’t insist on use using a water hour glass timer, similar to what Galileo would have used.  imageAs well as rolling balls across inclined planes and measuring their distance, Galileo also used the Tower of Pisa to give him a vertical height from which to drop objects.  He was able to demonstrate that a body dropped from height starts at zero velocity and increases his speed over time (rather than the constant velocity, that was larger the more the body weighed, assumed by those before him). This also involved his discovery that the velocity of a falling body is independent to its weight and the mathematical expression that, the speed of an object increases as the square of the time, hence our quadratic graph from the results of the first experiment.

Fast forward 100 years and armed with Newton’s Second Law of Motion, we are now able to form some calcualtions from our data.


And so we have it; practical experiments and calculation enabling us to derive a (very approximate) value of gravity.  There is of course discussion time here for all the aspects not taken into consideration, the main one being air resistence, but our time had come to an end.

The Birmingham and Solihull FMSP network hope to meet at least termly. It was a really enjoyable, practical session; a chance for us teachers to focus on mathematics, from those of us who would like to brush up on our A Level to those who have been teaching it for many moons!  Each meeting will have a specific focus such as this, but there will always be time for discussion of other matters according to teachers’ interests and concerns.  I do encourage any local teachers who are interested in A Level maths (you don’t have to be teaching it) to get involved with the network.  For more information, please contact:

Martyn Quigley
FMSP Coordinator for Birmingham and Solihull
School of Mathematics
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT
0121 414 4800


image      imageRAG123 Review updated                      RAG123 Review

I’ve been using RAG123 for a year now, after reading about @Benneypenyrheol’s RAG123 marking experiment.  This then led me to @ListerKev, and his selection of posts introducing, explaining and enthusing about the purposes of RAG123.  I decided to trial it in the last few weeks of 2013/2014, and was so impressed with the effect it had on informing my planning to support pupils learning, that it was a given that I’d be using it with all my classes.

From @ListerKev

From @ListerKev

From @_jopayne

From @_jopayne

A quick search on google found that there were several RAG123 posters already created, so it became a fairly easy job to adapt the wordings of these to suit my students and classroom.  As we’ve previously used RAG for pupils understanding of topics, I kept this the same, and 123 became the effort, which linked in with pupils on our reports too.  After using this for a year now, I’ve updated the wordings to the first person, as these will now be going on the first page of pupils exercise books, alongside presentation for learning and our written assessment and feedback system.


Division PuzzleI came across this idea on superteacherworksheets.com, although I’m sure many others have also used or made something similar.  It’s quite straightforward, pupils complete 9 calculations, find the answers on the puzzle pieces, and put them in the same order as the questions to make a picture! So I made this one for the decimal division that one of my groups is currently working on.

I don’t give the scissors out until the questions have been attempted (as otherwise pupils can easily put the puzzle together!)  The bonus of having the pieces with the answers on is that pupils can self-check as they are working.  There is no reason for the cutting and putting together of the puzzle, other than it is a motivating factor to complete all the questions, giving the pupils well needed practice!

Decimal Division Puzzle

When preparing a resource to take and share at mathsconf4, I wanted to share something which I find valuable and seems to make a difference to pupils learning. So I chose a resource, originally from TES (complex_number) for a topic I find pupils struggle with, yet is a basis for so much mathematics: converting between fractions, decimals and percentages. The resources I use are for groups with little or no understanding of the connections between the three as they start off quite basic.

It starts with a slideshow of artwork where proportions could be viewed as a theme. IMG_0337This includes works from Piet Mondrian, Victor Vasarely, Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella. With a quick review of what fraction, percentage and decimal (based on a 100 square, so using £s and p to support the decimals) mean, pupils then create their own artwork on their 100 square.  They then use their art work to write the fraction, percentage and decimal of each colour used.   The advantage of using this resource has been to consolidate the connection between the fraction out of 100 to the percentage. IMG_0339 The next step is to move onto a 50 grid, 25 grid, 20 grid and 10 grid, and hence the need to change the fraction to out of 100 in order to write the percentage.   Accompanying the grids are some fraction, percentage and decimal tables, with an extra column for the fraction out of 100, for pupils to practise their conversions. IMG_0342 IMG_0343 A similar resource I’ve used is a skittle pie charts. I’ve done this by giving out skittles (20, 25 or 40) and pupils to make their own circles, grouping the colours, section ing them off and writing the fraction, percentage and decimal for each section. I’ve also given out a template for pupils to colour in given skittles (this was actually to help with interpreting pie charts, but linked in nicely to the fractions, percentages and decimals work the pupils had completed previously. IMG_2292 IMG_2293  IMG_0338 All the files are linked below to use and adapt as wished! 1. Equivalent FDP Mosaic 2014 1. Mosaic Art 1. Mosaic Fractions Sheet 2. FDP Calculation Foldable 2. FDP Starter 2. Interpreting pie charts 2. Interpreting Pie Charts 3. FDP The original idea and basis for these came from TES (complex_number) and an American website, all freely available.  I’ve adapted into my own documents and made them to suit my groups.  Thanks, as always, to the originators of the ideas to sharing so freely, allowing me to use your ideas in teaching my groups.


Being an avid reader of @mathsjem’s resourceaholic blog, especially her maths gems, I’m often inspired to try something out.  This time, from gems 30, was the homework expectations. I still get frustrated by pupils lack of presentation skills, despite reminding them of our school’s presentation for learning rules (which are in a bullet point list).  It’s not just following the rules, but the attitude it reflects in their learning, and therefore the expectation of achievement they give themselves.  I hope that if I expect excellence, then pupils can achieve excellence!

So for me to expect excellence in their presentation, I don’t just want a list of rules, but a model to what excellence looks like.  I will start trialling using this model in the next few weeks (with a tweak or two to the design and colours) with the aim of launching it with my classes in September, and a focus on presentation for learning in those first few lessons and home learning.

Presentation for Maths Learning

2nd August: Attached below now is the updated version, which includes presentation target codes for the pupils, as presented by @letsgetmathing at mathsconf4.

Presentation for Maths Learning

Presentation for maths learning