Archive for July, 2014

20 Questions about C4 integration – A Book Review

July 15, 2014 Leave a comment

A while a go I got a copy of this fantastic little ebook authoured by Colin Beveridge
(@icecolbeveridge). The book is great and written in Beveridge’s usual style- accessible, witty and very informative.

The book covers integration. IT is based on the current Edexcel A Level spec and covers all the integration you need to know for that specification, not just the bits that are solely in that module. There are some handy mnemonics, some really clear and concise explanations and some very funny quips.

The book would work really well as revision guide, and is something students can dip in and out of if they are having trouble with a particular aspect of integration. I think the section on which integration to use is perhaps the most handy bit of the book.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book as a companion to anyone studying integration, but it should be used as that, a companion. It is written in a way to review stuff already learned and add clarity to areas you are struggling on, rather than as a book for the original teaching of the subject.

I hope Colin is planning an update for the new syllabus, and I would also love to see print copies available.

Homework and Retention

July 10, 2014 1 comment

I’ve been thinking a lot about homework recently. I’ve trialled takeaway homework and found in a non rigours manner that although the take up did increase, only one student saw any real benefit from doing it. This suggests that perhaps its not the best way for me to give homework to my students.

Hattie’s research (2008) suggests that homework has a decent effect size for pupils of secondary age (0.64) and is well worth doing as it is above his hinge point of 0.4. His research suggests that its not worth doing for Primary aged pupils with a tiny effect size of 0.15, but as I’m a secondary teacher, I’m more concerned about those findings.

Hattie drills into the research further and finds that structured, deliberate practice based homework has a better effect size than unstructured open ended tasks, and I think that in a maths context this makes perfect sense. This certainly seems to back up my preliminary findings on the impact of takeaway homework in my own classes.

So It got me thinking, what homework should I be setting? I read a piece recently by Craig Barton (@mrbartonmaths) which suggested that he would be moving towards a two weekly homework regime, where homework’s are 30 marks long, with 20 marks covering recent topics and 10 covering the rest of the topics learned so far in the year. This ties in with something I read recently from Joe Kirby (@joe_kirby) which suggested that he was building in lots of quick quizzes to improve retention and something I read from Bruno Reddy (@mrreddymaths) which said they were structuring their assessments in a similar way.

I think that these ideas are great, and going forward I plan to trial something similar. I am still going to set homework weekly, but I am going to rotate what its on. One week it will be on the current topic and the next it will cover all topics for the year. I hope that this, matched with starters that cover all the topics from the year, will help to build retention and improve the long term maths memory of my students. When setting the homework I will be setting tasks based around deliberate practice, as that is what the research suggests is of the best benefit. For the first few weeks of the year the weeks that cover all the years topics will focus on the core skills involved with maths such as the four rules of arithmetic, fractions, decimal, percentages etc.

A colleague of mine has started setting his homework on coloured paper and sticking them into his exercise books. I think this is a great idea, as it ensures that pupils have it there for revision purposes and it has the added benefit of evidencing progress over time and the setting of homework.

I shall track this trial next year and report back here when I know if it is effective with my classes or not.


Hattie, JA (2009) Visible Learning. A Synthesis of over 800 Meta‐Analyses relating to Achievement London: Routledge

Further Reading:

Getting on top of homework, Mark Miller:

Homework, what does Hattie actually say, Tom Sherrington:

Homework Matters, Tom Sherrington:

Homework in Maths, Craig Barton:

Take Away Homework

July 9, 2014 2 comments

Over this year I have seen a rising number of people tweet and blog about “Takeaway Homework”. Reading all the great things that the majority of these people had to say about it I figured that I would give it ago for this half term and see what I thought of it. I found this blog by Paul Collins (@mrprcollins) to contain an excellent maths based takeaway homework menu, so I used his resource. I chose 2 classes to trial the homework strategy with, one a year 8 class and one a year 9 class. I wanted to look at the take up of homework and the impact it had on the class.

Take up

The take up of the homework in the classes did improve. The year 9 homework rose from around 70% to into the 90% and the year 8 homework increased from 80% to 90%. So this was fairly positive and on this note the strategy was definitely a success. However, I’m not sure that an increased take up alone constitutes a success, so we need to look t the quality of the homework produced and the impact it has had.


I received some excellent creative pieces of homework from some of the students, some brilliant comic strips and games based around the work we had done in class. But I also received some poor, rushed, homework that fulfilled the criteria yet didn’t seem to add anything to their learning. In this respect, I feel that for most of the students homework which required them to practice a skill would have been much more beneficial as it would have helped consolidate learning better.


I informally interviewed the 2 pupils in each class who had produced the best homework and two other from each class as well to try and get a feel for home effective they felt the homework was.

One boy in the year 9 class who had produced some excellent work told me that he felt the homework had “helped me understand what’s going on better”. He had produced a series of comic strips which gave sets of instructions on how to do various things. Including one really good one on how to convert between Fractions, Decimals and Percentages. 

The rest of the pupils were less than enthusiastic about the homework. They all said that they had enjoyed the fact that they could chose what to do, and the ones who produced the good work said they had enjoyed being creative, but none of them felt they had improved their maths by doing it. A number of them did say it had helped them learn key words, but not much more. I feel then that the impact was much less than I had hoped.

In all, I feel that this brief trial has not given me any evidence to feel that that takeaway homework is a good thing, and I feel that there are many other homework strategies that can work better for maths. I realise that this brief trial is not at all rigorous, and certainly doesn’t prove anything negative about takeaway homework either, but it does suggest to me that there are better alternatives. I think I will run another trial next year, and look at doing it in a more rigorous and measurable manner, to see if the same findings occur.

Moving on

July 4, 2014 2 comments

Three years ago today I started my job, and life as a qualified teacher, two years ago yesterday I wrote my first post on this blog while waiting for a staff meeting to start, it was my daughters due date (she didn’t come for another two weeks!) One year ago yesterday I wrote this post reflecting on the blog and my year. Today I’ve been in to my new school, ahead of a start in September. It seems like a good time to reflect on a few things.

The three years I’ve spent in my current role have been great. I’ve worked with some amazing people, both colleagues and the students I’ve taught. I’ve been amazed time and time again by the students.

The school takes from a deprived area, and has a much higher than average number of “pupil premium” pupils. That doesn’t deter them. This week I have seen a phenomenal production of “Return to the forbidden planet“, which was put on by the foundation school (years 7&8). I was blown away by the talent and confidence they showed and can only imagine how brilliant they will be by the time they reach year 11!

Yesterday I attended North Leeds Schools vs South Leeds Schools rugby league challenge. Where the top 40 players in the city from the U13s (Y8) and the U14s (Y9) fight it out for the PIMS Trophy. We had six representatives in Y8 and three in Y9, and they all played brilliantly well.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a six form production of “For love and glory”, a play penned by two colleagues of mine. Again I was blown away. It’s been quite an emotional ride these last few months, First saying goodbye to Y13 and Y11, both of whom I will miss immensely. To be honest, I already do. Then I had to say goodbye to departing colleagues who I have loved working with. Now I have two weeks left, over which I will be saying goodbye to the rest of my classes and the rest of my colleagues. I’ve loved working here, and am sad to be going.

I’m also excited. Excited at the prospect of a new challenge. My new school is also in a challenging area, and the role is one that is perfect for me and fits to my strengths, giving me responsibility for KS5 and Gifted Mathematicians.

As for the blog, each month the number of views increases, and I have found it (and twitter) a great place to reflect, share ideas, find other blogs and discuss education. If you are a teacher reading this and you are thinking of writing one, I would say go for it. It’s helpful in itself, and has led to me attending events like ResearchEd York and Northern Rocks. It’s helped me improve my teaching, and helped me with my studies towards my MA.

The blog itself has grown, it still focuses on the four strands of writing mentioned last year, Pedagogy, Resources, Education Policy and Commentary, but now includes a number of blogs based around puzzles! (And, of course, plenty of mentions to triangles!)

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