Rewarding Pupils…

What is the best way to reward pupils?

In my opinion and from what I have read about in lots of books, praise is one of the best ways to motivate pupils. Who doesn’t like feeling good about something that they do. Students, even the most disengaged, like being told that the work they have just completed is ‘excellent’.

A lot of my most successful teaching has come from building positive relationships with all of my pupils – I like to be as fair as I humanly can but I am human and sometimes I make mistakes for which I apologise to my pupils if they do feel unfairly treated. At the beginning of each year I implement my reward system and on the flip side sanction system.

So here is a brief explanation of my reward system: I award pupils for excellence in lessons which ranges from asking amazing questions, giving amazing explanations and completing amazing work. I prefer not to reward excellent behaviour as this is one of my high expectations I set as a classroom rule. The award for such excellence is a personalised Mr Adamson stamp that says ‘I’m impressed…’, the stamps are then collected and used as a currency. To see how they can be spent please see the links below, I have also linked the ‘Sanctions’ system.

Rewards

Sanctions

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Here is my problem and proposed solution: My pupils are motivated by the ‘Get out of homework/detention free card’ but not so much the postcard or phone call home. I think my shopping list needs tweaking a little bit now. Back in November I took 25 pupils to a Rubik’s Cube Challenge and gave each one of them a Rubik’s Cube, ever since I have had lots of pupils coming to me and asking me for a Rubik’s Cube. I now have 50 Rubik’s Cube and after reading Number Loving’s blog on ‘On our best behaviour’ I intend to get numerous other gifts to give out as rewards to pupils for excellence in the Maths classroom. I just need some guidance on what gifts to buy and how best to distribute them. How many stamps should a Rubik’s Cube cost a pupil? I would like my rewards to be of a Mathematical nature but also something that pupils want to have.

One final reward I have begun this year is ‘Mr Adamson’s Star of the Week’ which is awarded to a pupil in any of my classes throughout the key stages that has demonstrated particular consistent excellence throughout the week. Pupils are awarded the certificate as well as being put up on my ‘Hall of Fame’ display.

Mr Taylor has also developed his own currency the ‘Tau Pound’.

Although I haven’t mentioned it but I have included a link to my current ‘Sanctions System’, although I want to motivate pupils through rewards I feel it is important to be consistent and have both sides of the coin.

English Weather…

This idea is inspired by the highly recommendable and enjoyable ‘Getting the Buggers to Add Up’ by Mike Ollerton. If you haven’t read this book yet, then I highly recommend that you do, particularly if like me you are prefer not to teach from a textbook, it is full of fantastic ideas and tips how to motivate students and making maths fun.

While reading ‘Getting the Buggers to Add Up’ I came across a section titled ‘Teaching mathematics through real life contexts’, well this is something that I endeavour to do whenever possible.

The idea is to collect each day’s weather page from a newspaper for weeks, months and eventually years. I have only collected over a series of months and think I will begin collecting again. I now have a resource (that isn’t a textbook) for students to use to chart changing patterns in weather, tides, temperatures and so on. I originally began collecting pages from The Times newspaper which has a lot of information on, looks quite dull and can be quite costly. I have since moved to The I paper as it costs 20p and is more visually appealing. It doesn’t have as much data on to analyse but still makes a great resource. To ensure that the pages won’t get ripped, tatty or lost I have backed them on poster paper and laminated them. This wasn’t entirely necessary and took a lot of time so I might not do it in the future but at least I know that they will be around for a long time.

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You can see the weather pages that I have made above.

On the weather pages from The I, there isn’t as much information as you get from a paper like The Times but there is still a lot of data that can be compared.

  • use box and whisper plots to compare the weather from different cities
  • draw a centigrade to fahrenheit conversion graph
  • explore the changing length of daylight (sunrise to sunset) over a period of time
  • finding the hottest and coldest places in the world
  • charting the number of sunshine hours from the most southerly to the most northerly places in the UK
  • checking the accuracy of a five day forecast
  • create stem and leaf diagram from all the cities displayed in the UK

I have used the weather pages during several occasions and pupils have responded favourably to them. Finding cities that they recognise or where they come from and have heard off. They also provide a fantastic cross-curricular link with Geography and Science. With my Northern  Cumbrian accent, I am always keen to point out that I am indeed from England and not Ireland, Scotland or as far away as New Zealand.

I hope that you decide to collect some weather pages and make your own resource or at the very least read Mike Ollerton’s book.

 

The Maths Computer Club…

At the beginning of last year I introduced the Math’s Computer Club to my school. I was surprised by how much it took off.

The idea:

Maths Computer Club was started as a way to get Year 7 and 8 pupils playing Maths games. Lots of my pupils talk about COD and numerous other games and how addicted they are, what rank they have reached. I too have played on these games, and as a gamer you don’t give up, you die and then just start again, you persevere until you succeed. Although Maths games aren’t as exciting as COD, I wanted pupils to experience this playing Maths games. There are so many websites that have invented Maths games, some of my favourites being

www.managahigh.com

www.sumdog.com

www.mymaths.co.uk

www.ilovemathsgames.com

www.coolmath-games.com

One of my favourites is Bidmas Blasters from Manga High. Bidmas Blasters is perfect for pupils who need to practice their basic arithmetic. The gamer needs to answer sums correctly to ‘blast’ the oncoming robots. At the end of each level they are able to upgrade weapons and buy new ammo.

bidmas-blaster

 

There are all sorts of different challenges and games available with Manga High and Sumdog being the most obviously mathematical with others testing logic and strategy.

As I would like to know if Maths Computer Club is making a difference, I keep a weekly register of those who attend (its not compulsory), along with their target grades. Following their December assessments I can see how the pupils that attend regularly are progressing towards their target. Fingers crossed it is making a positive difference.

Why not give it a try while its cold outside, start something in the New Year and you can get pupils inside playing on Maths Games. If you know of any other websites with Maths Games, please send me a link to them so that we can try them out in the New Year.

Making an interactive classroom…

What do your pupils think of Maths? What do their parents think of Maths? What do YOU think of Maths?

 

My memories of primary school maths lessons were of a much more interactive and fun experience than those of my secondary school years. As soon as I reached secondary school it felt like I was chained to the desk and questioned every time I stood up, even it was just to sharpen a pencil. I am quite keen to make sure that my pupils today do not leave secondary school with similar feelings about my maths lessons.

In most maths lessons I have observed in recent years, pupils are craning their necks to look at the whiteboard while we as teachers model and demonstrate the intended learning outcomes. I have some ideas as to how I want to change this, some of which I have put into practice, but I am looking for help in how to make it a more regular reality.

Last year when, I was teaching transformations – I liked using my floor as a demonstration area. I put some string down as my x and y axes and then wrote numbers on pieces of paper for my scale. This worked reasonably well. It had the desired affect of motivating pupils and they enjoyed getting out of their seats and standing, crouching, sitting around this large set of axes.

Pupils learned how to reflect, translate and rotate but this method just wasn’t quite accurate enough. Reflections weren’t in the exact position, rotations were a few degrees out of place and enlargements were a little bit ‘wonky’. This lack of accuracy would lose them marks in an exam, so I am keen to make sure that they don’t develop sloppy habits. I’ve been thinking about how to improve this teaching method, and I would like to make some sort of plastic sheet with a giant-sized set of axes on it that I can place on the floor. Whiteboard pens could be used to show any necessary working out the axes can be used over a whole range of topics.

Has anyone ever seen anything like this before? I’d love to know whether I can buy something like this, or whether it is just my own invention!

My next idea (not really mine) comes from the fantastic www.numberloving.com blog: dance mats. A lot of answers in maths are between 0-99 and you can use dance mats for pupils to give their answer, placing their left foot on  number to represent ‘tens’, while the right foot represents ‘units’. See the Number Loving blog for more on this idea, including how to make the dance mats. Their technique involves getting some of the material used at the swimming centre (webbing style mats) or some non-slip material from Ikea. The lazy teacher inside me does wonder whether something like these dance mats can be bought ‘fully formed’ – have you seen any?

I have trialled this lesson using a very basic canvas dance mat and the pupils loved it, so I am keen to repeat it. Unfortunately, I have so far only managed to make two dance mats so the disadvantages are obvious – not everybody could take part and they were made from fabric and slipped a lot, no matter what I tried (including taping them to the floor!).

Calculator corner is another idea I found on Number Loving, but we are in a new building and using blue-tac on the walls is strictly prohibited. To get around this I made my own calculator as part of a display in my classroom using velcro tape. I would like to take this a step further and make an interactive calculator for each of our maths classrooms. I think this will benefit us when we teach topics like trigonometry or indices and we can model exactly what our pupils need to type into their calculators.

Finally, I would like a giant number line in my classroom. I am sure 99% of us have had a number line somewhere up on the wall but I want to go a step further and make a transfer that can be stuck down on the floor. Then when pupils are adding and subtracting numbers they can get up and walk along the number line. Below London Bridge tube station there are lights built into the path that everyone enjoys walking along, I don’t want anything this fancy but I thought I’d share my inspiration.

I do have plenty of ideas, but sometimes executing them is the hardest part, so if you have any tips and tricks, please please share them. I really want to make resources that enhance teaching and learning, and that pupils remember. I have a unique opportunity coming up in which I can take this proposal to my head teacher and get funding to make some of this stuff so if you have any ideas that will help me, please do get in touch.

Trading Triangles…

Shape, Space and Measure is definitely my favourite area of Maths when teaching, so I look forward to teaching construction of triangles. Some of you may have heard of the National Geographic Trading Game: students simulate the trading of goods between countries, before reflecting on the challenges of trade between countries. But where does this fit into constructing triangles?

Triangles are sturdy; while a rectangle can collapse into a parallelogram from pressure to one of its points, triangles have a natural strength which supports structures against lateral pressures. A triangle will not change shape unless its sides are bent or extended or broken or if its joints break; in essence, each of the three sides supports the other two. A rectangle, in contrast, is more dependent on the strength of its joints in a structural sense.

It follows that it is important to construct a triangle with complete accuracy, but I found that pupils get bored and sometimes sloppy when constructing triangles from a textbook. So I adapted the trading game to ‘Trading Triangles’….

The task is for each group to work as a business, investing in initial overheads and building materials to construct and sell as many accurate triangles as possible while also responding to changing market conditions.

You will need:

·         Trading Triangles Flipchart

·         Trading Triangles Student Worksheet

·         Trading Triangles Roles

·         Trading Triangles Banker Details

·         Pencils

·         Compasses

·         Protractors

·         Card

·         Rulers

·         Scissors

·         Fake Money – I made my own (quite time consuming, so instead consider investing in some ‘play money’ online)

‘Trading Triangles’  requires pupils to work in groups (or businesses) with each pupil assigned a different role – ‘Project Manager’, ‘Sales Rep’ or ‘Treasurer’.

Project Manager – the role of the project manager is to make decisions on how best to approach the task including how best to make a profit and delegating jobs to the rest of the company. The project manager will have to communicate with the treasurer to find out what money can be spent on machinery and equipment. They will also have to liaise with the sales rep on how best to improve constructions.

Sales Rep – the role of the sales rep is to take constructed triangles to the buyer and sell their product. The sales rep will also be responsible for communication between the buyer and their team regarding feedback

Treasurer – the role of the treasurer is to look after the company’s budget. The treasurer must ensure that the company is not overspending on machinery and materials.

At the beginning of the lesson we discussed why triangles where important and why it is important for them to be constructed accurately showing examples of triangles in buildings.

Once pupils have bought the equipment (machinery) they need to construct the triangles accurately so that they can then take them to the banker (who has templates for marking – I made these with a 2mm allowance on tracing paper) to sell. Throughout the lesson the market conditions will change reflecting the current economic climate and natural disasters (all communicated to the pupils via the flipchart) so that different triangles are in higher demand, earning greater profits.

I chose the groups and assigned roles to pupils depending on their strengths or weaknesses, but it could be interesting to let students choose for themselves, based on their perceived strengths. At the end of the lesson, I discussed what strategies pupils put in to place, for example: did they use mass production? How did they employ each member of their group? Did they overspend/underspend on materials?

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Please feel free to give this lesson a try and make adjustments to suit your lesson and pupils. Let me know how it goes, I have only tried this lesson on a couple of occasions and next time I am considering an extra role – ‘the engineer’ as well as a variety of different triangles.

With the many of triangles produced as part of the game and a few photos, you can also use the work to produce a nice and easy display in your classroom.

Olympic Maths…

I have to be totally honest with you all: I started writing this blog almost two weeks ago, but due to the sheer brilliance of Team GB I have been totally glued to the Olympics. However you can rest assured that my mathematical brain has been ticking over and searching out every opportunity to use Britain’s sporting success in the classroom.

I am a keen believer in relating Maths to real-life, and I aim to find connections everywhere possible. Sometimes very little effort is needed, particularly when it comes to sport. Whilst watching the Olympics, I noticed more maths than I could ever imagine. For example, the BBC have made short videos to explain the format of each sport, and here’s where the maths comes into play:

  • Volleyball is played on an 18m x 9m court
  • There is a 3m attacking zone either side of the net
  • The net is 2.43m heigh for men and 2.24m for women
  • A volleyball weighs between 260-280 grams and can travel at speeds up to 100mph
  • There are 5 sets, the first 4 sets are played to 25pts and the final set played to 15pts
  • Each team has 6 players and 6 subs
  • There are 12 teams in both the mens and womens tournaments, which comprise of 2 round robin groups, before knockout quarter final stages

So much data to work with… Next year I will be asking my pupils to find the area and perimeter of the courts used in the Olympics, maybe comparing the size and shapes of the Badminton and Judo courts (Judo uses a 10x10m square). A little more interesting and relevant than random squares and rectangles in my opinion.

The medal table provides another source of data, and I have saved a screenshot of the medal tally each day throughout the Games, which the kids can use to figure out which day was the most successful for GB? In terms of medals? In terms of golds? And how have GB done compared to previous Olympiads?

Why not use some Paralympic data in this way when the new term starts? And that’s not all you can do with Olympic maths…

While watching the Team GB gymnasts win their first medal for 100 years, I noticed how close the scores were – down to hundreths of a point – so I quickly took a photo. Using this will let pupils practice adding and subtracting decimals, while appreciating the importance of decimals when the competition is so close. There is similar opportunity when comparing times for swimming and athletics.

Mens gymnastic scores, taken before Japan’s reprieve

The picture above was taken before the Japanese team appealed about their score, prompting an update which changed the order of the top 4. I snapped a picture of the new results so that I can ask pupils to work out how many extra marks Japan were awarded. I think it is important for  pupils working with decimals to see their impact in a real-life medal changing environment.

Sticking with ‘Number’, the Heptathlon is a track and field combined events contest made up of seven events, with the name derived from the Greek hepta (seven) and athlon (contest). After each event the heptathlete is given a points score, with the aim being to get the highest points total after all the events. My first instinct in using this information during lessons was simply to practice adding and subtracting these scores, working out the differences between the athletes.

After delving a little deeper I found that the points awarded after each event are calculated using different formulae, so I can now introduce substituting into formulae using Britian’s golden girl, Jessica Ennis, as my lesson hook.

The events are split into three groups, and the scores are calculated according to the three formulae:

Running events (200 m, 800 m and 100 m hurdles):
P = a \cdot (b - T)^c
Jumping events (high jump and long jump):
P = a \cdot (M - b)^c
Throwing events (shot put and javelin):
P = a \cdot (D - b)^c

P is for points, T is for time in seconds, M is for height/length in centimetres and D is length in metres. ab and c have different values for each of the events (see table).

As you can see from the table, the substitution will have to be done using a calculator but what better way to practice calculator use and substitution.

Swimming, athletics, cycling and rowing will all offer an opportunity to work with speed, distance and time, and I intend to work with the PE department to get the results from Sports Day; we can compare pupils from school to international athletes. Usain Bolt ran 100m in a new Olympic Record of 9.64 seconds, how fast are my pupils compared to the fastest man on the planet? If the weather is nice, I can also take pupils outside to record times of their own to then compare.

Team GB finished the Olympics with a massive 65 medals and because of the greater number of gold medals we ranked 3rd out of the competing nations. Russia on the other hand amassed 82 medals but due to fewer gold medals were ranked 4th. I want to find out how the table would look if acountries were ranked with a points system: 3 points for gold, 2 for silver and 1 for bronze. It is probably fair to say that the USA and China would still top the table but how about other nations?

At one point during the games, Britain had the most gold medals to population ratio. It will be interesting to ask my pupils to rank nations based on this criteria and make their own decisions as to who was the most successful nation during London 2012. You can find similar thoughts here and here.

Although the Games came to a close on Sunday, the maths didn’t stop… The BBC showed a graph of how the home nations of the past 20 years fared during their own Games and in later Games. Most nations went on to achieve less gold medals at subsequent Olympics; can Team GB buck the trend in Rio? Lets hope so.

So while we should all be enjoying a well earned summer holiday, don’t miss the opportunity to inspire a generation of mathematicians with something that they can relate to.

Using your entire classroom…

When I was at school, I can’t remember ever using mini-whiteboards but since I started teaching, everyone uses them. They are fantastic for assessing learning and take away the fear factor of getting something wrong. Pupils will happily give answers all lesson long if they have a mini-whiteboard. I have expanded this to using my entire classroom…

One lesson, I found a pupil writing on the table with a dry-wipe marker (obviously not what I intended) but it does indeed wipe off. The next lesson I used the tables as a whiteboard and asked pupils to write down what they knew about ‘7x’, the response was fantastic, everybody wanted to get involved and the novelty of writing on the tables and no fear of getting something wrong in their books meant that pupils wrote down lots of ideas. So that pupils had something to put in their books, I took pictures of each table that I could give to them in the next lesson to stick in.

I would recommend getting a cleaning spray from the cleaners as it cleans up much better and have a camera ready to take pictures as evidence of the great work that the pupils produce. Have fun with it but as with every idea, don’t overuse it.

Pupils love to come to the interactive whiteboard and demonstrate to their friends how to solve a problem but some pupils often get restless sitting in their chairs for a full lesson. To overcome this I have started using the floor as a stage area. The way I have my classroom set out, leaves me with a stage/dance floor in the middle of my room so I started to make the most of this. The floor can be a great resource to demonstrate constructions or drawing graphs. My school is just over 1 year old so I didn’t want to ruin the floor by drawing on it but I simply cover it with sugar paper and have a huge blank canvas. I was surprised how willing pupils were to get down on the floor and construct angle bisectors, perpendicular bisectors, translations etc. I once demonstrated an enlargement but didn’t put enough paper down to complete the enlargement, so make sure that you try any questions beforehand unlike me. I am sure there are many other things that can be taught using the floor that I haven’t mentioned yet so please let me know if you have tried anything that might be worth a go. I would love to try it out.

So next time you need to demonstrate a construction or brainstorm as a class think about using the floor or writing on the table and see how your pupils respond.

Photomaths…

How many of us repeatedly say to our pupils ‘Look around, Maths is everywhere…’? I do, very often.

What is the ratio of red tulips to the other tulips?

Can you estimate the number of pebbles in the picture? On the beach?

What is the sum of the squad numbers visible?

I am a keen photographer, and my favourite area of Maths is shape, space and measure. So during my PGCE year I started using photos as a way to get pupils talking about Maths, and thinking about it as a part of everyday life, rather than just something they do at school. In my case, I often use my own photos (I go out and look for something mathematical), but you could use images you find online, or you can ask for a photo from each member of your department.

Once you have some photos that you wish to use, they can be used in a variety of ways:

1) Give groups of pupils a different photo and a short period of time to look at the photo and write down a different question about the 4 areas of Maths; number, algebra, handling data and shape, space and measure. The questions may be extremely varied (and should be). They can be as simple as ‘How many people are in the picture?’ or quite difficult ‘At what angle does the striker hit the ball?’.

2) Use one photo and ask the class to discuss the Maths in the photo. What can they see? Some could see shapes, some parallel and perpendicular lines and others reflections and so on. When I use this format, I tend to pick a picture that involves something about the learning objective for the lesson.

3) Use a photo as a background and cover with a 3 x 3 table containing questions. Pupils then answer a question to reveal the photo. A bit like catchphrase. As with above the photo will contain something that relates to the learning objective.

As well as demonstrating maths in the real world, using photos gives the pupils an insight into what I am like (or the department) but also opens up lots of discussions. There are no right or wrong answers.

My word of warning would be not to get too enthusiastic about it like me and spend far too long discussing the photos. It’s only meant to be a starter and I once spent a quarter of my lesson talking about photography!

If you are unsure about what photos to use, have a look at mine and feel free to use them in your lessons, just let me know how it goes…

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Get connected…

When I was at university, I fought and fought against following the masses and creating a Facebook for myself. I caved.

But since then I have embraced social networking as much as possible, in particular Twitter. Initially, like many people I was just following ‘celebrities’, mainly rugby players so I could keep up to date with my team, Leeds Rhinos. But lately I have discovered a whole host of like-minded mathematicians all using Twitter and sharing resources, and naturally the purpose of Twitter has changed for me.

A lot of us don’t have the time to make resources from scratch, and often just adapt something that has been created already in some format. Following people on Twitter has opened up many new fantastic resources and blogs, available to use and share. One of many such blogs I have found lately is www.ilovemathsgames.wordpress.com, and I have recently been catching up on all the previous gems the author has written this year. It goes without saying that I am also following @ilovemathsgames on twitter.

While reading this blog I stumbled upon a blog about Twitter and found this video, which inspired me to begin my own blog and share my ideas with the teaching world.

I didn’t make this video but watching it inspired me to find out how to make my own, and I am excited to incorporate them into my lessons next year.

The primary purpose of Twitter for me is finding new and exciting ideas, but the secondary purpose is to keep in touch with my pupils. My Twitter account is set up through my school and I have asked my KS4 pupils to ‘follow’ me so that I can post revision tips, reminders about equipment or exams, videos and puzzles…. anything I can find to get them interested in Maths.

So if you’re up for it, join Twitter and start following. You can even follow me…

@L1v1n9byNum63r5

L1v1n9byNum63r5

So I have been meaning to create a blog or website about Maths for two years. I even went as far as buying ‘Web design all in one for dummies’; I read about 6 pages and it has since been sold on. But recently, I discovered a whole host of teachers and mathematicians sharing their knowledge, thoughts, experiences and resources through blogs, and I decided that it was about time that I took the plunge and joined in.

I am David Adamson, a Maths teacher, footballer, rugby player, cyclist,  photographer and Superhero (to some). A brief tussle with cancer has meant that I have taken a long and winding path to becoming a Maths teacher, but it has given me the time to source some new and exciting lesson ideas, many of which I have tried and tested and would now love to share. I hope that being back in the classroom full time will only increase the pool of resources I’d love to share.

I’m not a ‘shouty’ teacher (I find myself laughing at myself if I do shout), and I’m not a scary teacher (I don’t think). I believe in building relationships through praise and rewards, and in my short teaching career in Inner London, this appears to be working. I am not a man of many words and would rather kids learn by ‘doing’ instead of having to listen to me lecture for an entire lesson.

So if like me, you hate teaching from a textbook (although I admit that it is sometimes necessary), then maybe I can occasionally do some of the leg work for you and present you with innovative, interactive Maths lessons for your classes, through this blog.

I hope that you find some things useful for your teaching and any feedback would be great; if you use anything let me know how it goes.

Welcome to L1v1n9byNum63r5…