# The week that was (no. 9)

The first week back after the tattie holidays is always a busy one. It’s amazing how two weeks off can make you forget how busy a school day can be.  As well as teaching my classes I have been organising our trip to Glasgow for the Enterprising Maths competition, completing our attainment report, marking 5 sets of homework, attending a whole school staff meeting, taking study club, being on attendance duty, writing a prelim, completing tracking reports and having my PRD meeting.  That said, this week has been a good week for lots of reasons.

So here’s what my classes have been up to:

• S2 – converting fractions to percentages and decimals and calculating percentages without a calculator
• S3 – area and circumference of a circle and circle properties
• N5 – solving equations and inequations
• AH – solving second order differential equations

As the week has been very busy I did not have much time to make many of my own resources but have a few different thoughts to share this week.

Question of the week

My N5 classes were looking at how to solve equations involving fractions and I found this question from the website Open Middle.

As the pupils worked on this problem, I walked around the class listening in to their conversations. Some were determined that they would find the greatest value and got spurred on when someone found a value higher than theirs. What I was pleased about was that most of the class pretty quickly figured out that the numerator of  the fraction should be 1 so that no division is required. After the class agreed that this was the best solution:

I asked them to tell me what the smallest value could be. Almost instantly, one pupil said “-56, just switch the nine and the two”. I love these kind of questions that promote thinking as well as practice of solving equations.

Game of the week

I alternate from being someone who loves having classes take part in maths games to someone who thinks games detract from actual learning. This week I love maths games. My N5 classes were solving equations with fractions so I made this question sheet for them to work on in small groups.

The game part – this is an idea I’ve seen on Twitter in various forms and originally from Kim Hughey’s blog about Ghosts in a Graveyard. I adapted it slightly and simple put four shapes up on the board.

Each shape was allocated a number of points (10, 5, 0, -5) but this was kept secret from the class. Each group was given a number and when they correctly solved an equation they wrote their group number in a shape. Towards the end of the period I stopped the class and revealed the value of each shape. Groups then worked out their total points. The competition element of the game motivated the class and they solved many equations successfully.

Worksheet of the week

After spending a few periods reviewing circumference and area of a circle with my S3 class we were moving onto properties of circles involving angles. I decided to start this with some measuring tasks and exploring circles. This was the sheet I gave to the class.

I did not write this sheet myself, it was one I found in our department files. As the class worked through this several issues arose:

• not being able to read instructions carefully
• incorrect use of a protractor

This led to some problems when answering “What do you notice?”. However, I still found it a valuable task as we discussed how to use a protractor and how to make and check conjectures. Next week we will spend time formally using these properties to solve angle problems.

Discussion of the week

For our department meeting this week I had set three articles about memory to be read. Each member of the department read one article then fed back to the department about the article and what practical applications there could be for our department. The three articles were:

1. Making Things Hard on Yourself, But in a Good Way: Creating Desirable Difficulties to Enhance Learning Author(s): Elizabeth L. Bjork and Robert Bjork
2. Both Multiple-Choice and Short-Answer Quizzes Enhance Later Exam Performance in Middle and High School Classes Author(s): Kathleen B. McDermott, Pooja K. Agarwal, Laura D’Antonio, Henry L. Roediger, III, and Mark A. McDaniel
3. What will improve a student’s memory? Author(s): Daniel Willingham

All of these articles I found on Craig Barton’s Podcast notes.

The main ideas coming from these articles were:

• learning is improved by introducing “desirable difficulties”
• spacing and interleaving are necessary
• low stakes quizzes are invaluable
• the format (Multiple Choice or Short Answer) doesn’t have a big impact
• pupils gain valuable feedback simply from taking the quizzes
• the difference between learning and performance
• pupils remember what they think about
• effective revision should be challenging

The most exciting part of the meeting for me was the way in which the teachers had engaged in the process of reading and discussion. We spent most of the meeting talking about memory and teaching and practical strategies we could implement. This time was so useful and inspiring. I will definitely be having more reading and discussion time built into department meetings.