Welcome to my 163rd gems post. This is where I share some of the latest news, ideas and resources for maths teachers. The new school year has brought a flurry of activity on Twitter, with tonnes of great resources being shared over the last few weeks.

1. Zeroes and Ones

@TickTockMaths shared a couple of nice tasks to prompt discussion about writing superfluous digits. 

And the second task is Do we need that 1?:

3. Graph Axes

Thanks to @mrshawthorne7 for sharing a great task for finding the equations of linear graphs where there’s variation in the scaling of the axes. Charlotte says there’s some nice discussion to be had around Questions 1 and 4 (they’re the same equation but ‘look’ different) and Question 5 and 6 (they ‘look’ the same but are different equations). The full resource features a mix of positive, negative and fractional gradients and some questions where given the equation the students need to label the axes. It can be downloaded from sketchcpd.com
4. Nets
Thank you to @joann_sandford for sharing a feature of @MathigonOrg‘s Polypad that I didn’t know about. You can use it to create and test nets of 3D objects. Check out the gifs below where I had a little go myself. In the second gif you can see what happens if you make an incomplete net. It’s very easy and it’s fun! 

5. Tasks

There have been loads of fantastic tasks shared on Twitter recently, including a number by @ChrisMcGrane84 which you can find on his website startingpointsmaths.com. Examples include this task on working backwards from volume:

And this one on substituting negative numbers:

 

Conferences

Somehow I ended up presenting at three conferences in four days, which was stressful and a lot of hard work, but brilliant. I do love a maths conference.

On Wednesday I was at the Pixl Conference at The Oval in London. I’m not a Pixl member so it was fascinating for me to get an insight into how Pixl supports maths teachers through high-quality CPD, apps, resources and assessment (for example they provide mock exams – the kind that students won’t be able to find online! – and grade boundaries). It’s a really good model. The conference itself was a bit different to usual – it was a series of very short sessions, which meant it was buzzy and high-energy with lots of quick ideas. I did a ten minute keynote on challenge. It was a fun day, and the lunch was absolutely delicious!

On Friday I was at the Harris Federation conference. I work for a Harris school – every year all Harris staff have an Inset in October at the Excel Centre, with well over 4000 people attending. In the middle part of the day everyone goes to a role-specific session. I was asked by the maths consultant team to run the Key Stage 3 maths room which had around 130 delegates in it for a 2.5 hour session. This is a long time to run a room by myself, so in the middle part of the session I had everyone spend time trying out some challenging Key Stage 3 tasks from mathsvenns.com, Don Steward, MathsPad and mathshko. Everyone got really stuck into these tasks which was great. It was ironic that I shared excellent Don Steward tasks when Harris Federation has blocked access to Don Steward’s website in all Harris schools, and despite my requests they will not unblock it. Incredibly frustrating. Anyway, if you attended this session then thank you for your excellent engagement – if you work for Harris and you want the slides, the maths consultant team will share them after half-term.

On Saturday I was in Manchester for #mathsconf30. This was brilliant. With Rob Smith running a full tuck shop, it felt like a real return to the full pre-covid experience. I attended some excellent sessions and really enjoyed chatting to lots of teachers, many of who were at their first in-person conference. I presented on Area in Depth which seemed to go well, despite some weird projector problems! If you attended my workshop – thanks very much for coming – you can access my slides on my Topics in Depth page. After the conference, Craig Barton and I recorded a podcast at Piccadilly Station where we shared our top tips from the conference. It’s a super-short podcast (under half an hour!) so do have a listen.

If you attended any of the three workshops I delivered this week and you want to say thank you, you can buy me a drink here or support me by paying £4 a month on Patreon. Many other maths websites have adverts that provide an income stream but I don’t have any adverts to help cover the cost of hosting my website. So any donations are gratefully received. Thank you!

Update

At all three conferences people asked me how my new role is going. I’m really enjoying being Head of Maths. It’s nice to do a role I feel so confident in. I’m lucky I get to work with such a great team. I might blog about some Head of Maths stuff over half-term. 

My brilliant colleague Morgan made an amazing door display with her tutor group for Black History Month. It’s fabulous. She got the graphics from Twinkl. Nira Chamberlain, who is featured on the display, tweeted about it:

Over the last few weeks I’ve been attending Open Days at my local schools. We’re choosing a school for my eldest daughter Maddie who is in Year 6. My nearest secondary school is a Catholic school which she won’t get into. We live in a grammar school borough but we decided not to enter her for the selection tests, so that left us with four comprehensive schools to look at, including my own. All the schools we looked at had brilliant maths departments – it was so interesting to get the chance to look around! 

My school’s Open Day tour ran as a self-guided route around the school. The maths department was set up in the canteen. This gave us tonnes of space so we put maths puzzles out on three big canteen tables, and I was delighted that all three tables were quickly full of Year 6 children and their parents doing maths together, assisted by our brilliant student helpers. The engagement in these puzzles was incredible.

My school is a fairly new building and we have tried to keep things uncluttered, so the maths corridor has plain walls and – until recently – nothing mathematical about it. One of the first things I did when I became Head of Maths was to add a bit of personality – we now have a lovely wall sticker. Sticking this up during a lunch break was very intense! 

Here are some blog posts and resources you might have missed:

I’ll leave you with three nice problems for you or your students.

Next, @mathsimpact shared a problem from an old Key Stage 3 SATs paper. These papers are always packed full of lovely questions.
Finally, here’s a great puzzle from @aap03102‘s brilliant maths newsletter.

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