Five Superb Maths Lesson Ideas #2

1. Pythagoras and Trigonometry Revision Activity

I love activities that get students out of their seats. This task (designed by Steel1989) asks students to distinguish between Pythagoras and trig questions. Yet instead of a worksheet, the questions are designed to be printed out and stuck around the room on sheets of paper. Students get one to work on, answer it (in their book or on a mini whiteboard) and then write the answer on the back of the sheet. Then they put the sheet back up on the wall. When another student answers the same question, they check their answer with the one already written there. If the answers differ, they students need to talk to each other to discover which is correct.

pythagoras or trig

2. Polygraph Desmos Activity

Oh, wow, I’ve discovered a great one here and maybe you’ve heard the hype already. Desmos has introduced a teacher section that allows you to run class-side activities. I tired out the Polygraph: Lines activity with one of my classes. Have a look at the teacher guidance to learn more. Only you as the teacher needs to create an account; you give students a code to join the game. One student chooses a linear graph and their assigned partner has to ask yes/no questions to guess which graph it is. Meanwhile, as a teacher you can see all the questions and answer being given, who has been successful with the task (or not). I called one of my students over when I saw that she had typed “Does your graph go through the point y = 2x?”. I was able to clear up a misconception I didn’t even know she had until then.

The student’s view is shown in the screenshot below. Desmos is adding to the collection of class activities and I’m sure I’ll use them all in time!

polygraph lines.PNG

3. Tree Diagrams Challenge

A few of my year 11 students are ready to take on the challenge of those nasty tree diagrams questions that lead to quadratics. Fortunately, tonycarter45 has created this lovely sheet with probability extension questions. The sheet includes the answers.

Tony (who works at my school) has produced quite a few nice worksheets and you can see them on TES Resources. He specialises in thought-provoking questions. I like that his investigative worksheets often remove scaffolding parts as the questions progress.

tree diagrams


4. Two is the Magic Number worksheets

Three activities called “Two is the Magic Number” from Just Maths. Each one is a collection of cards solving a short problem, only two of which are done correctly. The rest show common errors and misconceptions. The cards generally cover number and algebra skills such as simplifying terms, using indices, and calculating with fractions. Depending on what you have taught your students, there may be a few topics that they haven’t learned, so check first. (My bottom set year 8 need to practice like terms, but they can’t do a conversion between meters squared and millimeters squared.) These sheets are great for checking students’ misconceptions.


5. IB DP Maths Resource Collection

I have a former colleague, Andrew Clarke, who is a brilliant resource collector. He has now started three curated collections of maths teaching ideas for IB teachers. The one that is most relevant to me is Teaching Diploma Program Mathematics. He has collected all kinds of teaching ideas for Maths HL, SL, and Studies SL. One item that caught my eye is an investigation about using calculus to describe concavity, which is one topic I have never found a good way of introducing.

Andrew’s other two sites may interest you: Teaching MYP Maths and Teaching PYP Mathematics.

What superb lesson resources have you seen or used recently? Comment below or tweet me @mathsfeedback.

Lesson: Ferris Wheel Exam-Style Question

Sometimes I just want to remind myself and others that not every lesson has to be “special” or involve a game or video. Lessons that are successful are those where students learn to think better and experience mathematics at work. Here is one of those; it’s not flashy, just solidly successful.

It is time to review our work on trigonometric functions in my grade 11 class (IB Mathematics SL year 1). I made this document with an exam-style question closely modelled on recent exams. The question is about a Ferris wheel rotating at a constant rate.

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The first page is the question, which I copied onto half sheets and gave out. These instructions were on the board.

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I told my students to try to work in exam-style conditions for the first step, promising that under the black box on the slide there were other steps we were going to go through with this question. Then when it seemed like everyone had time to attack all the parts of the question, I moved the black box on the slide to reveal the next set of instructions. Students worked in pairs to create their best answers.

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And finally, I gave out the mark scheme (the second page in the document) and we moved the answer papers around so every pair marked answers from someone else.

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We then returned each student’s paper and they got to glue their corrected answer and the mark scheme into their notes.

This lesson mirrors the discussion idea called Think-Pair-Share and provides good exam practice. Students appreciate getting to see the mark scheme and how it applies to a their own and another’s answers.

My lessons are like this a lot of the time. I would say I teach a whizz-bang-special-game-or-video lesson once a week, or less when I’m tired. But I always try to get students talking, working together, and going deep into mathematics.

How much of the time do you teach whizz-bang-special lessons?

Teaching Activity for Double and Half Angle Formulae

Here is a classroom activity I used with my IB Maths HL students to practice the double and half angle formulae. It is a set of dominoes that the student has to connect from the Start card to the Finish card by solving problems with the double and half angle formulae. The question on the right (above) needs to be connected to its answer on a another card. The answer on the left fits with a different question. I know that the students have completed the task correctly if all the cards are used in a chain from Start to Finish.

I made this activity with Formulator Tarsia, brilliant free software for teachers. I have used it to make matching cards, dominoes, and hexagon puzzles. It’s designed for maths and it can handle maths notation including fraction, exponents, roots, integration, matrices, and so on. I converted the Tarsia file to a pdf using Cutepdf.