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Time saving ideas for making great secondary mathematics resources

Published: Apr 20, 2017 3 min read

Stephen Lyon

Mathematics Lead

National STEM Learning Centre

time saver A lot has been written about this year’s mathematics GCSE examination results- what will the grade boundaries be? What is a good pass? How might post-16 take up be affected? No matter how your students fared this year no doubt new efforts are being made to best prepare your future cohorts for the demands of the new GCSE examinations.

September will be the time to take stock of the last two years. Which parts of the new specification have gone well? Which parts have the students found difficult? Which parts have teachers found difficult to teach? No doubt tweaks are already being planned.

As a head of department, I was always interested in which resources worked well and which needed to be replaced. Where did the text book meet our demands and which bits should we replace with our own material? With increased emphasis on mathematical reasoning and problem-solving, it is not just the quality of the resource that is important but the way in which the resource is used.

Developing, writing and testing your own new resources is a difficult and time-consuming task. However, I believe that I have a way of creating great resources with minimal effort.

The STEM Learning website contains over three thousand mathematics resources. Many of these are tried and tested resources from yesteryear that, with a little adaptation and few thoughts on how they can be used in the classroom, are still as appropriate today as they were when they were first written.

The resources are a great source of mathematical diagrams. I present diagrams to students and ask them to design questions which may accompany the diagram. At first the vast majority of questions start with the words “find”, “what”, “calculate”…

  • find the coordinates of point C
  • calculate the area of BCD
  • what is the length of the perimeter of ABD?

With a little coaxing, students soon start asking questions which begin with the words “explain”, “show that”, and “convince me that”

  • show that the point E has coordinates (4,3)
  • explain why ABCD is a square
  • convince me that the perimeter of this square must be an even number

Another favourite technique of mine is to change part of the question, especially by replacing numbers with letters. Rather than giving two angles of a triangle and asking students to find the value of the third, give the value of one angle and ask students to find values that the other two angles, A and B, could be. Is there a relationship between the values of A and B? If A is twice big as B how many different integer values can they find for angles A and B? What happens if A and B do not have to be integers?

By taking established resources and making these simple changes to them, you can ensure that you are using the best materials that will always suit the needs of your classroom and department. Not only that but it will really get your students to start thinking mathematically and hone their problem solving and reasoning skills.


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Our one-day CPD activity, Resourcing the new curriculum, will explore the wealth of resources that are freely available on the STEM Learning website and consider a variety of ways in which they can be adapted for use, with minimal effort, in the classroom to meet the demands of the new curriculum. We also consider how you can make your own collections of your favourite resources and link them to your scheme of work.