Integers Misconceptions

Why is it that so few of my pupils have a real understanding of performing calculations with negative numbers.

I have recently been working on finding the equation of a line in slope-intercept form with my S3 class. They investigated how to calculate gradient and have a great understanding of how to calculate gradient. The problems arose when actually calculating the gradient. So many errors with calculations such as -4 – (-5).

Listening to conversations at various tables I hear statements like “two negatives make a positive” and “I hate negative numbers”. The main misconceptions seem to be that since 6 – (-3) = 9 then -3 + (-4) = 7 since two negatives make a positive. Continue reading

Encouraging Communication

In a previous post Risk It All, I described one of my favourite games to use with mini whiteboards. But there are lots of other great activities I like to use with mini whiteboards that involve my pupils working together to solve a problem.

Here are a few that encourage the pupils to focus on how they communicate their answers:

(1) Relay Race

For this game, I arrange the pupils into groups of 5 or 6 and they stand one behind each other in a column. Continue reading

While You Were Out Wall

In a previous blog post One thing to Improve I wrote about a problem I have with absent pupils. This summarizes my thoughts.

One area which has always been a struggle for me is dealing with pupils who have been absent. Whether an illness or appointment or school trip or family holiday, pupils tend to expect to walk back into class and somehow magically catch up with the rest of the class. One of my biggest frustrations is when a pupil leaves a homework or test question blank and says “I was off when you did this”.

How do I help pupils to take more responsibility for their own learning?

After this post I was given the suggestion of using Mardel® Filetastic Hanging Folder Pockets. Unfortunately, these are not available in the UK (or at least I couldn’t track them down).

Then some lovely teachers on Twitter sent me links of how to make your own. I love a craft project! Continue reading

Quadratics Misconceptions

There are many common misconceptions that my pupils have. Many of them relate to simplifying algebraic expressions.

This week there have been two particular misconceptions gathering momentum around my Higher maths class. We have been completing work on stationary points and optimization – which relies on being able to solve quadratic equations. Continue reading

Teach My Lesson


This is not a fancy lesson by any standards. But it reflects a typical lesson of Higher maths. The lesson lasts for 50 minutes but by the time the pupils arrive we usually get around 45 minutes class time.

As we are nearing exam time it is important for pupils to understand how long a question should take them so when I set a starter question I try to give an idea of how long the question should take.

I set the class this starter question:

max Continue reading