Numeracy posters

For the past 4 years I have been in charge of Numeracy across the curriculum. This has been at 2 schools, additional to being Head of Maths. When taking charge of numeracy I wanted to think differently than it being ‘more maths’ and actually lead on whole school Numeracy initiatives.

I have had the fortune of working with great colleagues in all of the schools I work in but also across the interweb networks. This has been invaluable to sharing ideas and I have even shared some Numeracy posters before.

I wanted to give all subject teachers some ideas and links to their own subject so can up with the idea of having a poster in every classroom of the school that links numeracy to their subject. Many staff were keen on this and had a variety of ideas.

My drawing ability is limited to my Art GCSE but fortunately I have a very good friend who is a graphic artist!fd Over the past few years we have worked on numeracy posters for the curriculum subjects and I am now nearing completion of a poster per classroom! The last batch have rolled in this weekend and I will be printing in the week.

We have uploaded them to TES resources for sharing. Take a look – if you want a sample then drop me an email.


By astromouse


I had the fortune to go to a PiXL Maths conference last week and I do mean fortune! I had heard tales of how not much comes out of PiXL and that exam papers are just made using ‘exam wizard’ etc etc. I had even seen some and not thought much of them.

So I went in expecting to do some networking and make the most of the day and have actually come away with a lot! It was not as I expected. The venue was the Barbican in London which was great for the lecture hall we were in but strange at break time with people milling around everywhere and very long queues for food!

I did meet the wonderful @mathsatschool and we have already shared some stuff 🙂

The start of the event was interesting with our host saying that we would be lectured for a few hours and make the most of break times to network – which we did but to give PiXL fair dues I came away with a lot more than a lecture. Yes, I did know (and have already applied) many of the ideas they were putting forward but also picked up some great snippets for all sorts of stuff!

The main part of what I gained from the day ties in with their ethos of:

  • assess
  • identify areas of need
  • intervene with those students very rapidly
  • re assess to measure impact

I know this is what we do all the time but I have a great opportunity to implement this straight away at school as we have a student teacher taking my form. So within a week we are ready to rock and do some maths in form time!

Next, I will get into the amazing PiXL resources and their wonderful spreadsheet for tracking, but that may take a while! Thanks PiXL – more of the same next term please!


By astromouse

Visitors and observers

We have had a lot of visitors in recently to observe our maths lessons and had a busy couple of weeks before half term. We are now going through a teaching and learning audit and having performance management observations. With SLT, advisers to help us get OFSTED ready, HMI and feeder primary teachers. All of this is to help us move to be outstanding.

It was a challenge but our team were well up to it! Our second subject teachers were great, teachers performing well and some good points all round. This was with our usual bread and butter – nothing fancy – what you see is what you get, which is how it should be.

We did of course have areas to improve upon, most of which we are aware of and have been developing constantly this term to improve. It was reassuring to have similar points to improve from observers though and to know we are on the right track on what we need to tackle.

A couple of years ago I discussed in my last department the pros and cons of observers. What is the point of observing? After all any observation is false. Ultimately the reason we came up with is similar to what I have read by some great bloggers out there: any observation should be to support and develop our teaching for the students – and that is exactly what we are doing 🙂

So lets keep up the great work team and keep on improving for our great students! Bring on the observations and we will keep improving to meet the outstanding challenge. #ASHSproud

By astromouse

Assessing and tracking the new curriculum

It has been a busy term for all of us and you can bet there are many varied ways that schools, SLT and maths departments have been looking at the new curriculum and how to assess and track the students. Having been at a recent heads of maths meeting I am very happy to work in a great school with forward thinking SLT. We will not be reporting the old KS3 levels, unlike some departments. The heads of maths were in agreement that we need to report on the new curriculum we are teaching and not the old! After all, I would not assess my daughters bike riding ability by timing her cross country run!

The big question facing us all, especially in light of the new curriculum and only having brief descriptors for grades 2, 5 and 8 is how do we track progress of the students? I have thought about this for a long time, especially in the last 5 years as head of maths. I am in the fortunate position in that many of my friends are also heads of maths and that we share good practice.

So over the past few weeks I have started to implement a way of assessing that combines other schools ideas but also fits our school. It may take a while (a year?) to start to run its course but the approach is sound. It does rely on some solid foundations and consistency but it is definitely better than making up grades for the new curriculum and effectively guessing at where students are and will be.

The starting point is historical data. Students come in on X to secondary school and leave with Y. They will mostly fit a ‘normal’ curve and we could probably have a guess at their (old A*-C) GCSE grades from entry. Obviously we try our best to improve upon this but if you look at your school trends as a mathematician could you predict every year group now? Within 10%? within 5%? 2%? If you have some stability and effectively your department know what they are doing and all goes to plan then why not?

So we know where students starting points are (CATs tests, entry tests, FFT aspire predictions etc) and we could rank our students from 1 to n in the year group. Then, after each assessment point we are going to compare their current rank with predicted rank to see if students are working above/at/below expected progress.

We have up to 12 topic tests a year plus additional end of term and end of year tests. All of this will be for the new curriculum based on exam board assessments. Students current progress will be based on a moving average to factor in different abilities at number, algebra, shape, data, ratio and probability.

We realise that the system is not perfect but it is a good starting point to improve upon over time. We will tailor this for our own school to work for our students and it makes sense – more than any assessment model I have seen.

What do other maths teachers think? We would love to know how you are tackling this!

By astromouse


Now, I know that we no longer have to assess these for the GCSE Maths exam, but I have always been an advocate of full understanding. Each year I have a standard set of lessons where we run through what sensible questions are (prompted by a poorly written questionnaire) then students write their own. They use this to collect data from other students (which I have at times skipped due to the time it takes) and then use their own data for graphs charts and diagrams. It works a treat.

Times change, as does our curriculum, but I have tried the way to still do this process and not lose time – google forms. With just a lesson it is easy to cover the ‘correct’ way to write a survey question, get the students on to the computers, they write their own and then submit to their friends via school email. It does rely on using google but there is probably a clear argument somewhere that says ‘why are you NOT using google?!’.

This evening I have responded to many surveys, helping the students collect data. If you are uninitiated, google forms collates all of the responses into a google spreadsheet for you too! So the extra content is covered without loss of time and we can actually use the data collected rather than take lessons and lessons of students asking other students etc etc.

There were some great surveys too! Now, if only I knew a bit more about the Rugby World Cup I could select my favourite England player!

By astromouse

Draw a diagram

We have recently been exploring a lot more of the problem solving activities tied in with the new maths curriculum. I am encouraging much more of this for all of the benefits you can imagine but most importantly to develop the students skills.

We have some lovely new shiny Cambridge textbooks and also some of their free problem solving textbooks (I am sure every maths teacher agrees that any free sample book is great!). I only have 1 copy but have started to dip into it already. The questions are great and also themed with chapter 1 called ‘Draw a diagram’. The idea being that the students will learn overarching skills.

I started this work with my year 10 enrichment groups. Now, to clarify, our enrichment groups are like an ‘option’ subject and students get 4 hours of English/Maths timetabled. We have never gone all out for the extra fluffy qualifications to boost results but have put in extra where students need it. For these groups I am just going to do problem solving and so far they love it!

At the end of yesterdays lessons we drew some diagrams for the classic jumping frogs (check this if you have not heard of it – but with boys and girls on chairs at the front. Instant engagement and interest and with the option of ‘drawing a diagram’ to show their moves.

The open ended nature of many of these problems is giving all students access to the skills they need for maths – and it’s great fun!

By astromouse

LCM lesson

A few years ago I watched a wonderful series of programmes hosted by Marcus Du Sautoy on the BBC. It was about the story (history) of maths and how different aspects of maths were used and evolved, leading up to our GCSE curriculum.

There was a piece about Cicadas (insects that resemble locusts) and I used the video clip many times in maths lessons  but either it was removed or I cannot find it any more. There are other clips out there that I now use so the problem solved itself but I do miss Marcus!

The cicadas hibernate in cycles of 13 and 17 years (note prime numbers). The reason they do this is so they can avoid each other (one group of cicadas eats the others). They last appeared together in 2011 and I do not know who survived! It makes a great lesson though and turns in to some real life use of LCMS. When is the next time the cicadas will meet again? Will it be in your lifetime?!

That was today’s success, which I will repeat with a different group tomorrow. If any maths teachers want the resource I have uploaded it to the maths 2014 sow site: Check the resources on the google drive in the relevant folder.

By astromouse

Training days

I have experienced a variety of training days in my career. They have varied completely from planning in department, death by powerpoint, meeting as a whole cluster with 100s of staff, external speakers, new initiatives, non stop meetings and once… complete freedom!

Now obviously there are certain important school tasks that need to be done including a welcome back, review of results, department time, pastoral time, organisation of duties etc etc but so often there are extra unnecessary meetings. One of the worst (two) training days I have had at the start of the year involved continuous meetings, including through lunch and at the end of day 2 we had an hour as a department. I nearly fell asleep during the afternoon lecture on the first day and everyone was very grumpy.

The best kind of training days would involve appropriate feedback of results (without mentioning OFSTED every other sentence and without feeling told off), setting the scene for the year, well timed admin and pastoral meetings, time to breathe, lunch at the pub, tea provided (and wine) and also a large dose of departmental time to develop everything (including any new initiatives we have to implement).

I have just finished two days INSET. It was near perfect and fit the bill perfectly! We had time to develop our Mathematics schemes of work, assessments etc and really have a good focus to the start of the year. After our pub lunch I gave the team the afternoon to themselves so they could get set for the next couple of days and finished Head of Department duties. Looking back it could not have been better set up by SLT, with just one exception – they forgot to provide wine!

So thank you SLT for investing that time in us and giving us the freedom to work in departments – we hope to pay you back with better results at the end of this year!

By astromouse


After a nice break and completely failing to manage the #summerblogchallenge we are all getting ready for the new term.

One item on my to do list is to update the collaborative scheme of work site with misconceptions – 

I have some great suggestions from collaborators but also the exam boards produce schemes of work which include misconceptions too. Check out the website – we have plenty of useful stuff on it!

By astromouse

Down Time

Today is (I think) Saturday. After a few days off I think many teachers can lose track of the days.

One thing that I many of us believe in is ensuring we have down time and a break from work. My usual routine is to try to have Saturdays off else this could turn into a job of constantly working every day! Yes, there are always long days which do not finish at the end of the school day but I prefer that routine rather than non stop.

So a short blog today and remember to check out the others in #summerblogchallenge and remember to TAKE A BREAK!

By astromouse