19th May

Hello Maths,

The Friday bulletin is back after a short break. I was intending to write one last weekend while I was on the revision weekend with Beechdale year 11’s but I was having way too much fun. No, really! The weekend was organised to give students who don’t usually have a good space to work at home the opportunity fill the weekend before their exams with lots of good quality revision. They did 13 hours of maths and English in total, and lots of relaxing outdoor activities too. The kids have come back buzzing, if a little tired.

So, our exams are now well under way with C1 and Core Maths done this week. As well as C2, we obviously have our first glimpse of the new GCSE this week. The rumours are that the AQA practices sets 3 and 4 are the most similar to the actual paper as they were written alongside it. I know my class are hoping it’s not too much like practice set 4! Imagine opening up the first paper and seeing this as the first question…


They actually much preferred the last question on the paper:


They have finally realised that the new papers are not like the old ones. They can attempt questions all the way through the paper, not just the supposedly easier questions at the beginning.

The schemes of work for Summer 1 for years 7 and 8 are now complete.  There won’t be any more lessons added before half term, so if you have lessons left over, please use the time to recap content form the start of the year in preparation for the end of year assessments. I will start to upload Summer 2 lessons over the next week. The Summer 2 topics will not be covered in assessments.

You may have seen on social media that Maths teachers around the country will be celebrating Malcolm Swan day on Tuesday to mark his funeral which takes place on Tuesday.  If you do any activities with your classes, please can you send me photos so that I can send them to his colleagues, who will be sharing the tributes with Malcolm’s family. If you use Twitter and you want to share them on there too, the hashtag is #malcolmswanday.  A fitting tribute, I’m sure you agree.


28th April

Whenever people ask me who my hero is, I always say Malcolm Swan. Malcolm sadly passed away earlier this week, so I wanted to share a few memories with you.

As all Maths teachers who completed their PGCE at Nottingham University, I was brought up with Malcolm’s Shell Centre material in the early days and in later years, this box of magic:


Many of these tasks have appeared in my schemes of work over the years. The ‘Always, Sometimes, Never’ tasks and the questioning stems ‘Show me an example of… and another, and another…’ are staples of any Maths scheme of work. Many more brilliant lessons have appeared recently on the Mathshell website (Math-shell, not Maths-Hell) which hosts the Mathematics Assessment Project, which is part of the Maths Design Collaborative initiated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You will probably recognise some of the content on there as I have used many of the lessons on the year 7 and 8 schemes.

My personal memories though, have been in recent years. When I started working for the Maths Hub, I was incredibly fortunate to work with Malcolm on several occasions. I was in awe every time we were at meetings together, but he always spoke to me and everyone in the room as if we were his friends.

He turned up at my very first Curriculum Development day with some colleagues from the University. He said he’d just stay for the morning – I was just stunned that he’d come at all! During the morning break he said to me ‘I’ve just written a paper about something that will link really nicely with what you were talking about this morning. Would you like me to share it with everyone? It will take about an hour.’ Well, that’s like playing a gig at your local pub and David Bowie coming up and asking if he could jam along with you, and actually, would you mind if he played his new song? Malcolm ended up staying for the rest of the day too. At the end he told me that my presentation was ‘very good’ and that he’d really enjoyed the day. Possibly one of my best moments ever.

He didn’t charge for coming along that day, and he never charged for any other events we held that he attended. He would come along and act as ‘Koshi’ (The knowledgable other) for open Lesson Studies and offer advice on the lesson plans beforehand.

Before he became ill, he was helping me to plan a Lesson Study course and conference that shared the findings of the LeMaPS project.  Malcolm, along with others at the University had introduced me to this and I learnt so much through his work. There had been a LeMaPS website, and I was saying we should update it ready for the course. Malcolm said ‘I’ll do that’. Then I needed a speaker – ‘I’ll do that’. ‘Can I borrow that video of you acting as Koshi?’ (see below). He gave me a memory stick with all his Powerpoints and videos. For free.  He did things like that all the time.


He was the most knowledgeable, inspirational, kind and humble man. Although he will be truly missed, I have no doubt I will be using his lessons for the rest of my career, and will continue to ask students for another, and another…

Malcolm Swan

21st April

Welcome back everyone. I hope you all had a restful holiday and a productive week back.

This half term is all about years 11 and sixth form and getting them ready for their exams. New resources are popping up all the time, so do share if you find any new and useful ones. I like these from Mathsbox.


They are useful for quick skills revision and could be made into booklets for students to work through. They can be found here. Click on the link for GCSE Assessment.  They also have some short problem solving questions which are nice for a quick starter or settler to  lessons. These will be added to over time.

Due to the focus on exam classes, we won’t be having any assessments for other years this half term. We will just have end of year testing for years 7 to 10.  There will be just one paper for years 7-9 and two papers for year 10. These will be take place towards the end of the year and will be staggered to spread out the marking load.

While I was writing the most recent year 8 lessons, I rediscovered Numberphile. I had managed to wean myself off it after a brief addiction a couple of years agao,  but have now discovered lots of new videos that I haven’t seen! If you haven’t watched any of their videos, then have a look here.  A nice one to share with classes is this one which shows a card trick based on the number 27:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7lP9y7Bb5g&w=560&h=315]

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


31st March

Hi Maths

What a very quick (but ridiculously busy) half term that was!

I have added the first four lessons of year 8 for next half term and the first two for year 7 to the scheme.

I know that the year 7 scheme has been taking quite a while to get through, so don’t worry if you are carrying on with that work next half term.

Many of the students seem to be quite efficient with the fraction algorithms, but aren’t particularly fluent.

For example, for questions such as:


Some students have been insisting on doing things like


Although this shows knowledge of a procedure it shows a lack of conceptual understanding. Those who have read the question properly should be able to think ‘Ah – one third add two is obviously two and a third!’  Students who display real fluency are able to choose the most efficient and appropriate method to find a solution.  The same situation appeared in my year 11 class just this week.  We were doing simultaneous equations by substitution. As you know, the final step is to find y by substituting their value of x. Their value of x was a negative fraction:


Despite having just substituted an expression into the equation of a circle, rearranged to form a quadratic, solved the quadratic by factorising, many students were stumped by this simple final step. ‘Do we have to find a common denominator?’ was a common question. They wanted to know the method rather than stepping back and looking at what the question was asking. I’m hoping that the focus on fractions lower down the school will stop this being such a problem when it comes to GCSE.

When we get back our main focus will be our exam classes. The government’s decision this week to change a grade 4 to a ‘standard pass’ and grade 5 to a ‘strong pass’ shouldn’t really affect what we do in class or for our preparation for the exams.  Many students will be relieved that their grade 4 will actually ‘count’ for employers and universities in the future though.

Have a restful holiday over the next couple of weeks. Happy Easter to you all!


17th March

Hi Maths

Welcome to the Friday bulletin on Sunday!

I’d like to start by apologising for the lack of assessment writing this week. Unfortunately due to a horrific case of the lurgy, I haven’t been able to complete them. Rather than try and rush them, I am going to miss them out. This means there will be no tests for year 9 or 10 at ALC or WPC and no tests for year 10 at BBA after the current topics.  If you have promised your classes a test, please feel free to use one of the text book texts from Kerboodle (Don’t record on Go 4 Schools as it won’t fit the grading system). However, it is fine to just miss it out completely.  The testing will be back on board for the next set. Sorry for any inconvenience!

Thank you to the teachers at WPC and ALC for the mock marking this last week. All data is in and Joel and Louise have been working hard to decide on appropriate interventions for those of our students who need a little extra help with their studies. They will let you know if any of your classes are affected.

I’ve been excited about writing this week’s bulletin after a fabulous visit to Mellers Primary school in Radford as part of our INSET at Beechdale this week.  The school use the Maths No Problem textbooks which Bluecoat Primary also use. Read about the books here.

Here are a few examples of randomly selected Year 5 Maths exercise books, but I could have photographed every single book, they were all so good.

Question 4 has the fractions in order with a really clear explanation why underneath. I was wondering how well some students in lower sets in year 9 and 10 would answer that question?



I’m annoyed I didn’t take a photo of the chicken solution.


It was great to be able to directly compare the work we’ve been doing in year 7 with the work from this mixed attainment year 5 class.  I  love the clear working out in the books.  The children clearly take the time to write down what they are doing, which is something I think some of our students need to work on.

The class books were kept in magazine files on the sides for anybody to see , and weren’t specially chosen for visitors. The books from the other subjects were equally impressive. I would love to be able to have any of our year 7 books from any of our classes available for visitors to see, knowing that the quality would be this good, but I don’t think we are quite there yet. Maybe next year!


As you can see, the future is bright for us at Secondary school of this is the quality of work that is coming in from year 5. Our schemes of work in year 7 will be altered year on year to accommodate this.

See you all next week,


March 2017

Sorry for the late entry of this month’s blog, it has been a particularly busy few weeks down at the Primary with many exciting trips taking place! This month’s focus in maths has been on the use of concrete resources to support understanding.

This focus on concrete resources is something that stems from the CPA approach to maths (devised by Jerome Bruner) – the belief that children, and indeed some adults, can find maths a struggle because it can be quite abstract in nature. The CPA approach suggests children should first be taught maths in a concrete way, which is the hands-on, ‘doing’ stage of the process. Objects and resources are used to bring maths to life and give the children a concrete base for each new concept. The second stage is pictorial, and is thought of as the ‘seeing’ phase. Instead of using actual objects, children use representations of them to help solve problems. Drawings and pictorial representations are used to bridge the gap between physical objects and abstract problems. The final stage of the process is the abstract phase, also known as the ‘symbolic’ phase. By this point the idea is that children should have had enough hands on experience of manipulating objects, and then of using drawings and pictures to represent these objects, that they are now able to access the maths at an abstract level. Here children use numbers and mathematical symbols to represent their maths.

In Year 1, we have been using the CPA approach this week to help with word problems. First we began observing ‘maths in action’ and talking about what was happening, for example someone having 9 pens and giving 4 to another person. We focused on the numbers in the story and began applying language like ‘adding’ or ‘subtracting’ straight away so that we could ‘see’ the maths. Nothing was written down at this point though, it all involved concrete objects and real people. It was then time for the children to practise solving word problems on their own, using cubes to support them. They began by finding the key information in the number sentence and circling the numbers themselves, before deciding what the number story required them to do (either add two sets of cubes together or take some away from a set). It really helped the children visualise the maths in the problem, and they were very good at imaging the cubes were dogs, strawberries or even monkeys!


Some children even managed to write their own number stories, with the cubes and real-world objects having helped them build a secure understanding of this concept. Below you can see the word problem one of our lower-ability children created – ‘(Child’s name) have ten Spidermen and my friend takes six off me’. He was then able to assign an abstract number sentence to it, showing a really deep understanding.


Concrete resources have also been used in a variety of other ways across school:

· Using each other as resources to gain an understanding of position!


· Using counters and 10 frames to match written numbers to values


· We even used each other to represent tens and ones, standing as tall soldiers to represent a stick of 10 and curling up small to represent a one!

Next month’s focus will be on the next stage of the process, the pictorial stage of maths. We will be particularly focusing on use of the Bar Model as a way of representing maths.


March 10th

Hi Maths

Thank you to all the year 11 teachers at ALC and WPC for all the marking this week for the mock exams. Having looked at the results that are in, they seem very positive at first glance, with a vast majority of the students improving their marks, and many improving their overall grades. I will switch the ‘current grade’ on Tuesday to reflect the new grades, once all of the data is in.  I would just remind you that our boundaries are only our best estimate. Please reiterate this with your students, especially those on a ‘9’.

Some news that I received recently is that the average grade on the Higher Practice Set 3 from the uploaded schools’ data is just 37%.  Obviously, not all schools entered data, but there were around 11,000 students’ data entered. Practice set 3 were written at the same time as the real exam papers and are said to be of a similar difficulty.  With this is mind, I would predict a very narrow range of scores between the 4/5/6 grades.  The message for students here is that every single mark is vital, as only a few marks might be the difference between grades.

Other Years

I will be writing the Year 9 assessment 4 this week (Year 10 at BBA). Year 7 are due an assessment at the end of the Easter term, but from what people are telling me, the fractions lessons are taking quite a while, so it may be pushed back to after Easter, which is fine.  This assessment will include both the angles and fractions topic. Year 8 don’t have an assessment  after this unit.

Pi Day


All campuses are holding a pi recital competition on Tuesday. I wonder which campus will win? Please send me photos of the winners! If you have any other pi day activities in school, please let me know/take photos so I can include them in next week’s bulletin. Here are links to some pi day dingbats. I won’t post the solutions in case you want to try them yourselves. If you need them, drop me an email.

pi day dingbats extreme
pi day dingbats hot
pi day dingbats medium
pi day dingbats mild

Have a great weekend everyone!


March 3rd

Hello Maths,

I had the pleasure this week of going to Wollaton to help out with the Oracy Assessments for the Year 7 Angles unit of work. This was a bit of an experiment, and we weren’t sure how they would work logistically or how useful they would be.

Over the past couple of weeks teachers have paired up so that one could take students out to do the assessment while the other stayed with the class.  This worked well as the lessons they were being removed from were the practical tessellation lessons at the end of the unit so the students weren’t missing any whole class teaching.

The teacher explained what the process would be to every student using this sheet.


The following sheets were then shown to the students one at a time.

Listening to the students’ reasoning was really interesting.  Many students were able to explain their reasoning correctly. It was lovely to hear students explain what they had seen in lessons, for example, referring to the tracing paper to find the angles on parallel lines. However, there were still many students who simply wanted to explain their calculation method. Explanations such as ‘If you add 40 and 70 and take them away from 180 you get the answer of 70 degrees’ with no reference to straight lines were common. The students ‘got’ the right answer, but this isn’t what we were looking for.

When you think about the 4 mark angle questions at GCSE, we are often frustrated at the students’ poor reasoning skills. This is highlighted further in the geometrical proof questions, where often students don’t even attempt the questions.  It shouldn’t be a surprise though. If they can’t ‘say it’, they certainly won’t be able to ‘write it’.

I think that oracy assessments such as this will help our students enormously in developing their reasoning in a way that is missing from written assessments.  Students are able to record their progress using a grid in the same way as their written assessments. They can then easily see which areas need to be improved upon. Louise is hoping to make recordings of examples of good student reasoning so that students can hear examples of what we were looking for.


We need students to understand that ‘The answer is only the beginning’ and that there is more to being ‘good’ at maths than a hundred ticks in their exercise books.  Ensuring that all students have the opportunity to practice their spoken reasoning in lessons is vital.  It is sometimes painful  waiting for students to articulate their thoughts while the rest of the class wait patiently, but they do improve with practice.  The academy focus on oracy means that students should be focusing on this area in every subject area.  This will certainly help them in their maths lessons too.

Linked to improving reasoning skills, two teachers from all three secondaries went to the second day of the Maths Hub KS3 Reasoning Project this week.  They will be working in their pairs to trial ideas from their training. This will include observing the resulting learning that takes place as a result of what they have put in place in each other’s lessons over the next few weeks. They will be feeding back their findings to each department during faculty time. I look forward to hearing all about what they have learnt.

Have a great weekend everyone.


February 24th

Hello Maths,

I hope you’ve all had a good first week back.

This week has been the start of the fractions unit with year 7.  The lessons are mainly discussion based, which is great for improving our students’ spoken reasoning and oracy skills.  There have been some interesting discussions in my class this week, particularly about why when p/q = p÷q, q cannot equal zero.  Their faces when they were trying to imagine dividing baguettes between zero people were a picture! I also realised that many of them (depending on their previous school) had simply memorised procedures for converting between improper fractions and mixed numbers.  This meant that there was often a lack of understanding about the connection between the numbers, and an audible ‘aaah!’ when they realised the connection. I could tell the shift when some students started answering questions as ‘Two wholes and two thirds’ instead of ‘Two and two thirds’ which showed they were imagining what it actually looked like when working it out.  This is less likely to occur over the coming years as students will have had more time studying the new KS2 curriculum.

The discussion about fractions is invaluable, however, you may find that several lessons back to back might seem to drag a bit. If this is the case with your class, please do supplement your lessons with written exercises or consolidation activities when required. If you are writing your own exercises and use some of the ‘intelligent practice’ and ‘variation’ we discussed at the INSET, please can you share your exercises, and I will add them to the schemes.

World Book Day is this week. I have added a section in the year 7 Scheme of Work for Spring 2 for you to use on 2nd March. The resources have been adapted or taken from Stacy3010 from TES and can be found here .  You may need two lessons depending on your class.

I will be adding a section to the year 8 Scheme of Work next week for Pi Day celebrations too. However, you might like to give your classes advance notice if you are running a ‘Recite Pi’ competition. I know that BBA will be running this as part of the House competition.  There is a really good app called ‘Learn Pi’ which is free to download.


Try not to get too addicted if you download it yourself.  I once lost a few days of a rainy holiday challenging my friend’s teenage son to a pi duel. I know how to enjoy myself!

BBA and ALC have your second mock exams for year 11 this week. I will update the marksheets on Go4Schools. However, although the new grades will be calculated, the ‘Current Grades’ won’t be updated until all of the results are in to avoid confusion for students who might be checking online. Joel and Louise will let you know your marking deadlines. Please familiarise yourselves with the mark schemes before you start your marking.

Have a great weekend.







10th February

Hi Maths,

It’s been quite a busy week over here at Beechdale! With mock exams and Ofsted, we are certainly ready for a holiday. Well done to all the Maths staff who really worked well together and showed the Ofsted inspectors some lovely lessons.

(BBA staff – if possible, please could you have your results in by the start of the new half term so that Nick and I can sort the new groupings for the first week back).

Unfortunately, my plans to write the new lessons for next term had to be put on hold for a couple of days. I have now added two lessons for year 7 and two for year 8 for the start of next half term and more will come in the first week back (I’m away over half term). Year 7 are moving on to Fractions. This includes the ‘baguette’ lesson that we looked at on our July Inset, and also some ideas from lessons taught during the England-China exchange that the Maths Hubs are involved with. Year 8 are moving onto sequences. The order of the work in the unit may be a different order than you are used to teaching. This is to avoid finding the nth term as a procedure and to encourage students to look at the structure of the sequences first in an attempt to improve reasoning.

Year 10’s work follows on as usual after half term. I also haven’t written the assessment 3 for year 10 ALC/WPC. Again, that will be done in the first week back.

I have added Nick’s resources from the Inset on 30th Jan. They can be found in the folder with the others here.


Have a fantastic week off everyone. Normal service will be resumed in the new half term.