Ben – Master of the Cosine Curve

The use of literacy tasks in Mathematics classes is often met with opposition from both students and teachers. In fact, as a student, I would try to avoid writing tasks as much as I could despite being a keen reader.

I now find as a teacher that:

  1. I have a duty to help develop a students literacy
  2. Some literacy tasks are “fun”
  3. Literacy tasks can enhance the teacher – student relationship.

Thanks to Paul Flintham for his Newspaper Template on TES.

My Year 11 Mathematical Methods class has been studying Trigonometry. As in previous years the Unit Circle has helped student’s learning a lot. Image from:

I have set my students the task of writing a newspaper article about an event that has occurred in our class whilst learning trigonometry. Humor is encouraged! Here is my attempt: Bens cosine. (note that Ben and Len are pseudonyms)

What literacy tasks have you used in your mathematics classroom?

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Join the Dots

I was planning a decimals lesson for my year 7 class. Upon searching Colin Fosters excellent resources I noticed:

“Oral work: Go around the class counting up in 0.3’s,
say, beginning at 5.
Will we ever hit 100?
What’s the closest we’ll get?”

It occurred to me that this sort of practice could be adapted to a ‘join the dots” puzzle.


You can download a pdf here: Add point three.

My colleague is teaching FDP (fraction – decimals – percentages), so asked me to create a puzzle making a picture of a Corgi dog – she owns two!


You can download a pdf here: add 5 percent


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A Few of my Favourite Things

On a recent trip to Nepal – Bhutan – Hong Kong, I couldn’t resist buying some stationary to add to my favorites (see picture below).

What stationary/teaching aids could you NOT do without?


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2018 Planning


Oh my! This will be my 40th year of teaching. And I still love it. Only 8 more sleeps.


I can’t wait for my new classes, students, colleagues and teaching/learning experiences.

My plans so far:

  1. Get to know students quickly (names, likes, dislikes).
  2. Use Sara Vanderwerf’s Week 1 ideas – after all she has posted about week 1 fifteen times!
  3. In particular I like “Name Tents with Feedback”, “100 Number Task” and “Mathfails”. Here is a Math fail I photographed last month:Donuts
  4. Get more feedback from students and act on it. eg. survey questions, pre-tests, exit tickets, etc.
  5. Use more open ended questions eg. Is x squared or x cubed bigger? Explain.
  6. Allow opportunities for movement around the classroom. eg. Leaning stations, Slope Man says, Movement Maths videos, Puzzle Table, etc.
  7. Use “Maths in the News” from the Independent egs. Largest known prime discovered, The perfect age to get married is 26.
  8. Have fun with students egs. Nicknames, Instead of “Where’s Waldo” play “Where’s Molly”, celebrate birthdays.
  9. Show students the beauty and wonder of Mathematics eg. Numberphile videos.
  10. Finally, I wonder if they will like my new Teddy and think up a good name for him?


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Dominotion (part 2)

Games that engage student have (from my experience) a balance of skill and luck. All students should believe that they have a chance of winning. The game should involve a number of choices to be made. So here is the board and rules for “Dominotion”.

Dominotion Board


1. Ten dominoes are drawn (one at a time) from a double-15 set.

2. Players place each pair of numbers on the board. They may be horizontal or vertical with the two numbers in either order.

3. Eight dominoes are placed on the grid and two dominoes are discarded.

4. Each row and column is scored (eight scores).

5. The winner has the highest total.

The game board: domination.pdf

What strategies would you use? What is a good score? Any feedback would be appreciated.


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Dominotion (part 1)

I love the satisfaction you get from creating something. Like a new blog post. But creation requires effort.

As Mathematics teachers, we create lessons for our students. The content of these lessons can come from many sources. eg. Videos, worksheets, games, text books, puzzles, card matching, etc.

One of my most successful methods of creating original content is to start with “material”. eg. cards, blocks, dominoes, dice, cardboard, paper, etc.

My most recent purchase was a double 15 set of dominoes from a “Games World” store in Perth.

double 15 dominoes

The first questions that come to mind are:

  1. How many dominoes? (don’t show students the tin)
  2. Total number of dots?
  3. What size rectangles can be made?


Another application is to use dominoes to represent fractions. For example find equivalent fractions, sort fractions in ascending order, etc.

4. What fraction of the 136 dominoes form proper fractions that can be simplified?

Any other ideas – I would love to hear from you.

Stay tuned for (part 2) of this post where I introduce a new game called “Dominotion”.


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Hidden Figures


I have just watched the film Hidden Figures. It tells the story of three African American women mathematicians at NASA—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson—who were instrumental in “doing the math” that allowed John Glenn to be the first American to orbit Earth. The film is based on Margot Shetterly’s book, Hidden Figures.


If you are a Maths educator or student you should definitely watch this film. It breaks the stereotype that men make better Engineers/Scientists/Mathematicians. I already know that this stereotype is wrong, because I have worked with and still work with excellent female Mathematicians and Mathematics teachers.

But seriously, watch the movie, it is damn good. Be prepared though for many reminders of colored segregation and discrimination in the 1960’s.

For a much more comprehensive review, check out Science News for Students.

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Maths Warmups

Many Math Blogs have good ideas for starting a Maths lesson. For example:

  1. WODB
  2. Would You Rather
  3. Always, Sometimes, Never
  4. Transum
  5. Solve My Maths

When I started teaching Maths (37 years ago!) my mentors impressed on me the importance of getting a lesson off to a good start. As a result, my students know that as soon as they sit down they are expected to start work.

Apart from forming good work habits and learning Maths, this immediate use of a “warmup” allows the teacher to complete his/her admin duties. For example: roll marking, checking uniform and equipment, deal with late arrivals, read daily bulletin, etc.

Although I use WODB, Would You Rather, etc., my preference is for 10 quick questions. These should be graduated in difficulty from easy to challenging.


I have nearly finished creating “50 Warmups for Secondary School Students”. One of my students contributed two drawings – a boy and a girl character as shown above. She named them Mandy and Drew! Below is a sample – let me know what you think?


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Playing Mathematically

Anybody who knows me, can easily see I have a passion for playing games. A fellow teacher starts each school day trying to beat me at “Stop or Dare”. At the end of a teaching day Maths teachers and the odd English teacher gather for a game of “Liar’s Dice”. WHY?

  1. Playing Mathly CoverIt’s fun (we laugh and shout)
  2. It’s relationship building
  3. It provides practice in basic arithmetic

I have now gathered over 100 games that I have tried in the classroom. Three are originals invented by yours truly: domino squares, operation golf and salute the king.

Click the image at right to download.

Hope you enjoy playing. Let me know your favourites!

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2016 Bring It On

clip-art-gardening-188910As usual during the summer holidays I get sick of gardening and housework and can’t wait to get back to school. Fortunately, I have 90 Mathematics teaching blogs in my RSS reader.

These give me plenty of inspiration, as well as teaching ideas and resources.

Here are 5 that have “caught my eye”:

1. Add Em Up Review Activity by Sara Vanderwerf. Her goal is to get students talking about Maths! Make sure you check out her 1 to 100 activity also – a great way to get group work going with a new class.

2. Putting Stats Projects into Practice by Amy Hogan. We are implementing common assessment tasks this year. This post gives great advice on ten important features of doing Projects in the classroom.

3. Visual Patterns and Coding by Adrian Pumphrey. I intend to continue using the excellent Visual Patterns website and now I will add some programming with Skulptor and graphing with Desmos.

4. Creating a Positive Learning Environment by Mo Ladak where he gives 22 great strategies to help achieve this. Well worth a read!

5. Learning Mathematics: the struggle, the tools and the way forward by Michaela Epstein. This up and coming star Aussie teacher is a product of the fantastic TFA program. Watch her presentation from the Transform Ed conference.

20 more sleeps………..zzzzzzzzzzz

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